London Coffee Festival 2018

What can you say about the London Coffee Festival? For coffee lovers or those in the business it is simply one of the most exciting times of the year.

Where else can you catch up with some of the roasters that have sent their wonderful coffee out to our subscribers, cup coffees from some of the biggest names in the game, rub shoulders with the coffee-glitterati and win a notebook from Square Mile whilst standing next to James Hoffman (who is remarkably tall, btw).

The day started early with a quick trip to Beigel Bake on Brick Lane to get some breakfast before the caffeination commenced. Being the early bird I am, I made it to the front of the queue and managed to get the pick of the festival for the first 5 mins before the rest of the baying crowds made it through the door.

So, what did I choose to do with this ‘first through the door’ advantage?  Well, on the instruction of our subscribers by way of our ‘Dream Roasters’ poll I went and found Tom from Craft House Coffee at the amazing San Remo stand. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm in love with the Café Racer, and only Su's threat of chopping bits off or divorce (or both) keeps me from spending all our money on one for the office.

Tom at CHC is a man with a true passion for coffee, and a real artistry to his roasting on the amazing Orange Giesen down in Sussex... so watch this space for more details of an exciting Dog & Hat / Craft House Coffee collaboration coming soon.

While at the San Remo stage (seriously, I could have stayed there all day) I also caught up with Iain and Mim from Buxton coffee to discuss how their next shipment of Peang Thai was getting on – after some minor logistical issues, it’s just made it onto the boat. We always love meeting these two as their passion and energy is infectious - plus it was really interesting to hear about their upcoming plans to set up Direct-Trade relationships in Ethiopia.

Then I headed up to my Home Barista workshop, being run in aid of Project Waterfall but unfortunately the team from 'Well Grounded' were running late so ended up missing my slot :-(

Whilst up on the 4th floor, I went to speak to  Chris at Outpost Coffee, another one from the subscribers 'Dream Roaster' poll and try some of the origins they had brought along with them. Chris told me that when selecting coffee and roast profiles, he tends to choose a profile that is polar opposite to the norm of that origin. I can vouch for this, as I sampled his Colombian Tabi with notes of green tea, hibiscus, and some really complex florals – and I quote “Imagine buying a pack of fruit pastilles and melting all the green ones into a cup of coffee, and you’re pretty much there”… it was delicious and nothing like any Colombian coffee I’ve ever tasted - top marks.

Then, who was I lucky enough to see as I left the Outpost Coffee stand but BBC Journalist, coffee lover and all round good egg Ellis Palmer hanging around the Neighbourhood Coffee stand (his local roaster as it turns out). It was insightful getting his thoughts on the show, the coffee business and his favourite roasters – although some of these tips could lead to a couple of expensive roaster on-site visits in Barcelona and Paris.

I then headed off to the Union stand to see if I could repeat my Cup North feat of becoming a top Union Taster with 4 out of 4 flavour profiles matched correctly… much to Su's annoyance I could, as she's going to be hearing about this for a good few weeks to come.

However, to balance this out I only managed to get 2 out of 3 origins correct on the Square Mile stand taste test (if anyone knows where coffee #3 came from, please let us know)… but in my defence, I was slightly intimidated by having James Hoffman looking over my shoulder while completing the challenge.

After successfully managing to disappoint JimSeven, I continued on my way around the show and bumped into Celeste Wong (TGITC) who was preparing for her Baileys (not to be mistaken with Bailies) coffee cocktail-making masterclass and she said she hoped you all enjoyed #brewburundi… I was slightly disappointed that Macchiato the cat wasn’t with her, but he was back home living it up in the Dog & Hat box we sent him to play with.

From there it was onto some coffee-related workshops to be told everything that I do wrong when making Su a morning soy latte… as it turns out, the lovely people on the Alpro stand inform me it’s still quite a lot... I'll get used to working with milk substitutes eventually.

Then, hidden between the bigger stands on the ground floor I managed to get hands-on with the Niche grinder (it looks great in black, BTW)… a really nice piece of kit that’s well made and quiet. They even took the burrs apart to show the lack of residual grind left over – I think anyone who’s purchased one is going to be happy with their decision.

Finally, there was just enough time for a final sweep of the coffee roasters. On the first floor I caught up with Horsham and had a cup of the Natural Rwandan that we are serving up in this month’s subs, back down to the ground floor to try some amazing Myanmar coffee on the Vagabond stand, met up with the guys from Maude to sample their new crop of Burundi and Colombia coffees, bumped into Francis and Dan from Moonroast, headed back up to the fourth floor to speak to Dave from Crankhouse and try their excellent Ethiopian LCF special blend, then finally back down to the first floor to catch up with Brendan and Stephen from Bailies to sample their Colombian Geisha and see all the trophies they’d won over the course of the festival.

By which time, I was so over-caffeinated that I needed a little sit down to watch the Coffee Masters tournament before heading back home.

My only regret was that there wasn’t enough time to find all our friends to say hello, so we’ll probably stretch to 2 days next year… see you there.

If you'd like to read some other reviews of the London Coffee Festival by people with far better journalistic skills than myself, we can highly recommend the following:-