We've just got back from the 5th edition of the Glasgow Coffee Festival (GCF), that was organised by Glasgow's hometown roaster Dear Green. It was a whirlwind day full of fantastic coffee competitions, cuppings, coffee, coffee, more coffee and even included a conversation about tiny little farmers milking a pea.
Obviously you now have your pick of coffee festivals to visit and geography is likely to be the primary factor as to which one you choose. However, there are a couple of things that we think really set GCF apart from the crowd and make it worth a visit.
First up is that, for the 2nd year running, GCF is a reusable cup only festival. This is great news for the environment, and by 12pm they'd already saved over 2000 disposable cups - but don't worry, if (like us) you wake up too early and forget to pack your own reusable cup you can always pick up a loaner from KeepCup on the door for a £5 refundable deposit. There are also plenty of washing stations to clean you cup between drinks.
This is all on top of the excellent exhibitor curation job that Lisa at Dear Green does to ensure there is always a great variety of stands to visit.
Now, back to our experience of the festival. The venue for the event is The Briggait on the banks of the Clyde, which was originally built in 1873 and used to be Glasgow's fish market. It's a short walk from Queen Street Station (though a slightly longer walk back if you get caught up in a Scottish Independence march through the centre of the city).
Once you arrive at the venue, you notice that the layout is nice and straight forward. You have a single main thoroughfare through the middle and then two routes down the outside. This is a great layout, as it avoids making you feel you are in a game of Pacman powering down coffee after coffee in a labyrinth with 8-bit electro-pop music in your ears… I suspect it’s also great for exhibitors too as there's a good flow of people to all parts of entire venue.
The first thing that caught our eye upon entering the event was the espresso bar being manned by Short Long Black - what was it that caught our eye about this particular stand we hear you ask? Well, it was the aforementioned Pea Milk (yes, that's right, you heard me correctly, Pea Milk… Milk made from peas). This interaction set the bar high for the rest of the day, as we pondered how you milked a pea - the best we came up with was a fleet of tiny little robots milking a herd of peas in a field… anyway, back to reality, the Pea Milk was surprisingly tasty and I'd recommend that any alt-milk lovers give it a go and find out for themselves.
From here we headed up to watch the SCA Cup Tasters competition that was running up at the main stage. We arrived just in time to See Matthew Orchard from Plot (who roasted the wonderful Brazil filter and Peru espresso for our subscribers this month) finishing off his set. The boy done good, with 3 out of 4 sets correct in a fast time - and he ended up placing 5th in this heat. Interestingly, also up on stage was long-time subscriber and Scottish Barista Championship heat winner and UK Barista Championship semi-finalist this year George who was acting as time-keeper and adjudicator.
It's always a real highlight to catch-up with subscribers when we're out and about - so a massive thank you to everyone that stopped us while we were walking around - it really means the world to us to hear how much you're enjoying the subscription, and we'll continue doing all we can to keep up with your expectations.
We then went on our roaster walk and met up with the guys at Machina Coffee Roasters, Cairngorm Coffee (with their vibrant yellow packaging - it really does stand out in the crowd) and Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters (who enticed us in with an awesome postcard of a Bolivian llama in full ceremonial dress - who could resist such a thing?).
We then had an appointment at the Dear Green stand to pick up some cheeky samples for the subscription, and it was great to see the new packaging that's been on the horizon at Dear Green for a while now - the new black bags and colourful accent stickers really work and gets the thumbs up from us.
We also got the chance to pass on our thanks to roaster Mick from Red Bank Coffee for roasting the Colombia 1-2-1 project as a last minute replacement for us in the March subscription. He was also peddling Red Bank samples out of his backpack so we picked up a sample of their latest Brazil to continue Dog & Hat's "Project - Find the Best Brazil Coffee ever" endeavours.
Then it was down to the cupping room to take a journey around the world of coffee - first with 32Cup from Belgium who had brought a great range of East African coffee including an experimental anaerobic fermentation coffee from Burundi that used a yeast specially created in a French lab.
Next up was a cupping organised by a roaster we've been meaning to get hold of for a while now, Climpson & Sons from Hackney in London. Dean & Nicole had brought their entire range with them along with a couple of super special Colombia coffees from La Granja farm, which we can only describe as Um-Bongo-y (for those not familiar with Um-Bongo, you can find out more here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Um_Bongo). They also brought an experimental anaerobic fermentation coffee from Brazil that surprisingly used the Brettanomyces yeast strain, which these days is a key ingredient in the new craft beer trend, Sour Beer. Instead of bringing sourness to the cup though, it imparted a really boozy note - a cracking coffee.
And that was it for our day, we'd hit our caffeine limit, and had a train to catch so headed back to Queen Street station. However, there was one last thing to do - pick up the obligatory can of Irn Bru Extra to enjoy while we waited for the Scottish Independence march to clear the town centre.
Thanks GCF - we'll see you again next year and in the meantime, we're off to find a pea to milk :-)