We’ve just got back from an excellent day at the Manchester Coffee Festival… it was great to see so many enthusiastic and knowledgeable coffee lovers there!

Cup North put on a really varied program with lots of interesting exhibitors engaging with the visitors.  It was fascinating to watch the SCA UK Cupping Championships running throughout the day – you have to admire the palates of those that took part, and it was a very impressive calibre of competition.

It was nice to meet up with a couple of our roasters that were exhibiting over the weekend.  Stephen gave us all the latest developments that are going on over at Django Coffee Co. - it’s sounding like very exciting times in Southport and we’ll bring you more when it’s all finished.  We can’t wait to get a taste of his new Costa Rica and Guatemala - Django were in our inaugural subscription and a lot of our new subscribers won’t have had the pleasure of tasting any of Stephen’s fine coffees.

Then we headed over to the Heart and Graft stand (their Rwanda Mugonero is shipping this month) to catch up with Sean and James – sporting their signature purple hoodies.   The fruity Chavez Micro-lot from Honduras as an espesso really kick-started my coffee drinking day nicely - Don David Chavez (whose name the coffee bears) is the President of Café Organico Marcala (COMSA)… more about that later.

I then managed to get hands-on with the Conti ‘Project 60’ lever expresso machine (only 60 were produced to celebrate the Monaco-based company’s 60th anniversary this year) – what a gorgeous machine.. but I think it would be a bit overpowering (and expensive) for Dog and Hat HQ.

Campus @ Union Roasted were running a 'top taster' competition where you had to blind taste four coffees and label them based on four key flavour profiles (chocolate/caramel, nuts/spice, citrus/floral, and fruit)… with four out of four I proudly etched my name on the leader-board and moved on.

Then followed many interesting conversations around consumer appetite for more avant-garde speciality coffee vs the traditional chocolate and nut flavours people are more used to.  At Dog and Hat we like to think that there is no right or wrong way to enjoy your coffee, and people can favour whichever flavour notes they want… we’ll continue to showcase the many different coffees out there, and we’ll leave you to make up your own mind - but please keep giving us your feedback.

The consumer taste conversations led on nicely to the Geisha tasting at the Origin stand.  It’s fair to say that Geisha is pretty much a phenomenon in coffee circles – it’s won numerous awards and comes with a very distinctive, highly floral flavour profile (and an incredible price tag to boot)... I'm still not sure it's 100% to my taste, but I definitely appreciate the quality of the product.

As Su is a fan of milk-substitutes in her drinks, I took a walk over to the Oatley stand… and for me, Oat milk is a far nicer alternative than Soy milk – we might need to make a change in the Dog and Hat fridge.

I then listened to James from Heart and Graft giving a talk on the benefits of organic farming techniques in relation to the work that COMSA are doing in Honduras, which was punctuated by some fascinating insights from Alejandro Martinez (an organic farmer from El Salvador that had visited COMSA when making the switch from traditional to organic farming).  The key message is that the move from traditional farming methods to organic is a scary one for the farmers but can lead to significantly increased bio-diversity, more resilient soil with improved nutrition, and (frankly) better tasting coffee.

Finally, I finished off the day at the Coopers stand where I took a 10mins taster class on latte art from the incredibly patient baristas on duty.  It’s a well-known fact that I am awful at latte art, but I picked up some really good tips and even managed to create love heart by the end – so thank you… and they even managed to get to the bottom of the issues with working with Soy milk for Su.  Key tips were

Use fresh cold milk - Use a cold jug - Just as the jug gets too hot to touch, turn off the steam - One good tap and a swirl until it has the look of shiny emulsion paint - Finally, don’t be too fancy with your pour (straight and true with a smooth lift and pull at the end)

latte art

Susanna Morgan