Where to start? I think we have to open with what an exceptional inaugural event the Coffee House Project (CHP) a.k.a. The Bristol Coffee Festival turned out to be - and I have to say well done to Louisa and Sofia for putting it together!
This was the first event that Dog and Hat have exhibited at and we chose Bristol as it's a hub for great coffee with such an amazing vibe. The show saw younger roasters such a Django Coffee Co, Manumit, Hard Lines, Outpost Coffee, Girls Who Grind, Triple Co and Bunaberry show off their coffee alongside some larger roasters including Colonna, Extract, Origin, Dusty Ape, Wogan and Clifton Coffee Roasters! It was especially good to see the great and the good of the Bristol coffee roasters scene coming out to support their local festival.
The Show Business
The costs of our stand were reasonable and affordable for a small business like ours. We weren't really sure what to expect from the festival itself but CHP was friendly, welcoming and busy. So what did Dog and Hat, a coffee subscription company, hope to get out of a show like this? Would we be well received? Who knew really! Our goal was to tell more people about the work that we're doing but we ended up getting so much more.
Our festival started with road trip from York on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately we couldn’t all go (we have the family at school and a puppy now), so I travelled down on my own. I was a little nervous about finding the venue and unloading our gear, so as I arrived at the loading bay, I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely guy called Ian to help me unload, which took away all the pressure and within minutes I had everything I needed in the right place - phew!!! It slowly emerged that there were several family members helping this event run smoothly, which was great to hear.
The event was held in The Passenger Shed at Brunel's Old Station in Bristol, a single story building next to the main station in Temple Meads. It had a high ceiling and step free access throughout. The building had an entrance from station approach and easy access - a very pleasing place indeed and there were lights strung across the hall to great effect. I think all the exhibitors were accessible and there was plenty of area to sit and take in the atmosphere, which was just happening. The SCA stage was at the far end and the workshop stage was in the middle along with several benches for people to sit and enjoy a rest. Food and bars were situated along the side - all in all, a well-considered lay out. However, if you were a roaster towards the back of the room it was noticed that people were "coffee'd out" by the time they reached the back.
Once we'd settled into our small stand area right next to the SCA stage, we met the lovely Manumit Coffee Roasters to our left who are dedicated to supporting those who have survived modern-day slavery - a great ethos behind this roaster (plus Esther and Dan were a fantastic pair). To our right we had Libby Ceramics, with many beautiful things for me to ponder over for our General Store! Although the best news of all was that we had our good friends, the very lovely Ste and Tanya from Django Coffee Co, who had brought their Falcon competition coffee over for a try... and what a superb coffee it was. Then came a request from Libby the ceramics lady that she'd quite like a bit more of a coffee education, and everyone was more than willing to oblige . Along with Paul from Hessian and F.O.E, we all bonded very well in our little corner of the show.
There was a launch party on the first Thursday at Extract's Bristol roastery, which I couldn't make as it was just a bit too far out of town and I was running late. The festival opened on Friday at noon and was reasonably quiet for coffee consumers, much more of a trade day - that said, I did get to meet three of our lovely subscribers, which was awesome. We also explained the different single origins and blends to Libby, who felt today she may be able to handle two coffees. I also got to meet a number of people from Grumpy Mule, including the pineapple shirt wearing Dave Jameson who may have something exciting for our subscribers in the near future.
Friday night saw the main lights turned down and the DJ turned-up for the launch party - all the exhibitors got 2 free drinks from either the main bar or cocktails from the Tia Maria bar... which led to some good show side banter.
The SCA - Coffee in Good Spirits competition was also running throughout the show... now, how awesome was that?! Starting with 14 people on day one with six going through to the final, it was a tenterhooks affair. Although we were initially a little confused on the first day as the competitors detailed every ingredient and gave their best, by the time it came to the winners announcement at the end of Saturday, our stalls were abandoned and we were all in front row!
Non-coffee related festival extras included a tea-towel screen printing section (which was reportedly great fun though sadly I didn't get a chance to try it out myself), the lovely Hessian and F.O.E making bags and soft furnishings out of used coffee sacks (these are very cool because Paul donates money to charity when the roasters wont take money for the sacks destined for landfill), and Swoon - a Bristol based gelato company providing range of palate cleansers for the festival goers.
What would I change? Not much because I did love it - but one thing I've really admired from this year's coffee festivals was Glasgow Coffee festival partnering with Keep Cup to have zero disposable cups on-site... I would love to see this being rolled out to all the festivals, including Bristol, next year. I'd also like to understand if it were possible to make this a 3 day show as the 2018 show was run over a Friday and Saturday, making Friday more of a trade day and Saturday our main day for consumers. As someone who travelled from York, running into Sunday and having two consumer-focused days may be more valuable, but I understand the limitations for a first time show and its not a complaint!
So, what did we get out of it in the end? Brand awareness - Ideas - Confidence. I had the chance to tell so many people about our business and only time will tell who chooses to join us on our journey. I asked people what they thought and what they would like to see and got some great feedback. I got to meet endless people in our industry that can really help and partner with us.
Sometimes you spend some much time in your own space when you run a business, that it's good go get out there and meet people and network. Would we go again and would I recommend you go next year? ABSOLUTELY.
Here are a few links to some of the great people we met: