Welcome to the second of my Saturday Supplements on the 2014 London Coffee Festival at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane. This year I attended three of the four days; Friday (the industry day) and Saturday and Sunday (public days) and rather than writing about each day, I’m doing a series of themed posts. The first one was a general round up of the festival, while this one focuses on cups. Yes, cups. Cups played a big part in my festival experience this year.
Regular readers will know that I am bit militant when it comes to cups. Good cups maketh good coffee. Well, not quite. Bad cups ruin good coffee; bad coffee in a good cup is still bad coffee. It just looks slightly better.
I have quite a collection of coffee cups at home, especially espresso cups, but I’m always on the lookout for more… In particular, I’m always on the lookout for good reusable takeaway cups. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s espresso in a paper cup. Fortunately for me, this year’s festival was a good one for cups.
You can see exactly what I mean after the gallery.
The quest for a good, portable cup, has been a long one. I did have an espresso cup that I bought in Venice for 80 cents, and used to take with me if I thought I was going anywhere that would be without real cups. However, forever carrying it around led to the inevitable and it got chipped.
I had a KeepCup for a while, and although I liked it, it was plastic and too big for espresso. And then I (accidentally, honest) left it on a bus in Oxford. I think it was penance for putting coffee from a second-rate station coffee cart in it…
I also have a stainless-steel travel mug, a present from a Canadian friend. It’s practically indestructible and so far I’ve been very good and not lost it. However, its main drawback is its size: being Canadian, it’s huge! I tried putting flat whites in it, but they’d get lost and less experienced baristas would always panic and over-compensate with the milk, which rather spoils the whole point of a flat white.
So, I went into to coffee festival still needing a decent reusable cup…
Then I saw a tweet from Caffeine Magazine with a photo of the new, limited edition glass KeepCup. That swung it for me. Glass is infinitely preferably to plastic and I knew I had to have one. When I arrived at the festival on Friday, I made a beeline for the KeepCup stand. I only had one reservation: wouldn’t glass break as I carried it around in my rucksack? I shared my concerns with one of the sales staff who, in reply, took one off the shelf and dropped it on the floor. It bounced very impressively and I was sold.
I did, briefly, think of trying to blag one, using my credentials as a well-known coffee blogger, but, if I’m honest, I like to pay my way where I can and I was also a little bit worried that they might say “Brian’s what?”. So I bought one.
The glass KeepCup is known as the Brew and comes in two sizes, the correct size (8 fluid ounces) and too big (12 fluid ounces). You can have a normal one, with a plastic band, or the Limited Edition, which has a neat cork band that means you don’t burn yourself when holding it (the normal one has a plastic band). I handed over my credit card and walked off, the proud owner of a Limited Edition KeepCup Brew.
I was perfectly happy with this state of affairs and would have left it at that except half an hour later one of the staff tracked me down and said the head of sales, who was over from Australia, wanted to see me. It turns out it she had heard of me and wanted to give me a KeepCup…
After a short discussion, we agreed on a normal KeepCup Brew. I think she’d have been happy if I’d picked a pink one, while I secretly lusted after a classic black one. However, I felt that since I was getting a free KeepCup I really ought to pick a bright one that stood out in photos, so went for one with a red band and blue lid.
You see the adventures my KeepCups and I got up to during the coffee festival in the gallery below.
That really would have been that except that on the Sunday I came across the JOCO Cups stand, tucked away in the trade area (in contrast to KeepCup, which was on a prominent corner spot in the True Artisan Café). At this point, I was feeling a little guilty, since fellow-blogger Cups of Coffee London had already told me about them. Part of the existence of the Coffee Spot is to stand up for the little guy and let people know about the out-of-the-way places. This extends to cups too.
Now, I should say that I’ve got nothing against KeepCup. As a company, it very much fits the Coffee Spot mould. However, it’s not the only supplier of reusable cups; it just happens to have the best name (KeepCup; it does what it says on the tin, to mix my marketing slogans) and is the market leader. Let’s face it, KeepCup is becoming synonymous with the reusable cup and I’d heard of them well before the coffee festival.
JOCO Cups, on the other hand, was new to me. Another Australian company, JOCO Cups has the advantage (in my eyes) that all the cups are glass. They come in the same two sizes as the KeepCup Brew, but have a flexible silicon lid (compared to the KeepCup’s hard plastic lid) and a wider silicon band.
To be totally honest, I really thought I should buy one. Indeed, had I not been given a second KeepCup, I probably would have, but I was already wondering what I was going to do with two reusable glass travel cups and the thought of having three was too much for my parsimonious mind. So, I had a somewhat embarrassed chat with the nice lady on the stand and slunk (slinked? slanked?) quietly off…
About half an hour later, I was wandering past the stand again when the nice lady took me to one side. “I’ve just realised who you are!” she said and presented me with a classic black JOCO Cup with a classic black lid. She is, indeed, a very nice lady.
So now I’m the proud owner of three reusable glass travel cups. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll see that I’ve been taking them everywhere I go and introducing them to all and sundry. The reaction has been universally positive, with baristas casting approving glances and others handing them around for all to see.
I’m going to keep this up for a while, but if you don’t follow me on twitter, you should be able to see what you’re missing out on in due course since I intend to publish a “travels with my KeepCup/JOCO Cup” Saturday Supplement at some point.
Being the original and inventive chap that I am, I have christened my KeepCups “KeepCup #1” (the Limited Edition) and “KeepCup #2” (the normal one). The JOCO Cup goes by the snappy name “JOCO Cup” (I am, after all, the man who calls my Rancilio Silvia espresso machine “Silvia” and my Rancilio Rocky grinder “Rocky”).
Until then, you can see what I’ve been up to with the JOCO Cup in the gallery below.
(May 2014: I have to report the sad news of the demise of KeepCup #2, who, while on a trip to Dublin, was balancing precariously on a milk jug, posing for a photograph. Unfortunately he slipped and fell, dashing himself to a thousand pieces on the unforgiving Dublin flagstones below, ruining a perfectly good flat white in the process! I was so distraught I didn’t even think to take any photos of his last moments before a nice man with a brush swept him up…)
For more on KeepCup, JOCO Cup and other reusable cups, please see the Coffee Spot Guide to Reusable Cups.
The other cup-related news of the coffee festival happened when I wandered past the Acme & Co. Coffee Cup stand, which was being run by the UK distributors, Caravan. I have lusted after the Acme cups, which come all the way from New Zealand, ever since I saw them in Issue 7 of Caffeine Magazine, but I already own over a dozen espresso cups and can’t really couldn’t justify buying another one.
However, I made the mistake of stopping and picking one up… As well as their stunning looks, the Acme cups are solid. Even the espresso cup is really heavy, about twice the weight I was expecting, largely down to its thick sides.
In all, Acme has five cups, ranging (in size) from the demitasse I was lusting after to a latte cup. I liked the looks of the flat white cup and the similar-sized tulip cup, but all of them were beautiful. They come in seven simple colours (blue, green, red, grey, brown, black and white), although not all the cups come in all the colours.
Just as I was about to move on, when I was struck by sudden inspiration!
Those who know me well will be aware that while I like the imagery of the Coffee Spot, I’ve never been very happy with the crema in the photograph I use as my logo. Back in the summer of 2012, when I came up with the design, I only had an old, second-hand and very cheap (even when new) Gaggia espresso machine. The crema it made, which wasn’t very good to begin with, only lasted about a minute, so by the time I’d made an espresso, positioned it, picked up my camera, and taken a few shots, it was all over.
Over a period of a couple of weeks, I made many cups of coffee, shot many pictures, looked at and discarded them, then went around that loop numerous times. Eventually I got a picture I was happy with, even if the crema wasn’t very good.
Fast-forward to February 2013 and along comes Silvia, my Rancilio espresso machine, capable of making a decent espresso with a fine, long-lasting crema. I also had a better lens for my camera and a tripod, so I could set up the shot, position the cup, and take multiple exposures. I meant to re-shoot the Coffee Spot cup that summer, but I was busy and never got round to it. Then, a week before the festival, I realised I was running out of business cards and really should re-shoot the cup before I got them re-printed…
… which leads to my sudden inspiration. I introduced myself and asked Mike, who was on the stand, if he’d like to donate a cup to be the new, official Coffee Spot cup. He was delighted to and asked me what I wanted. If I’m honest, I really wanted the classic black one, but they’re notoriously hard to photograph and, besides, wouldn’t go with the current Coffee Spot colour scheme.
So, it had to be a white one. And, of course, the only colour that wasn’t on the stand was white… However, Mike said I could pop by the roastery at King’s Cross and pick one up, so that’s just what I did the following Friday.
You can see the new Coffee Spot cup in the gallery below.
If you want to learn more about the London Coffee Festival, you can read what some of my fellow-bloggers made of it:
- there’s Gulia’s report on mondomulia
- new blogger, Freshly Brewed Cup, presents Part 1 and Part 2 of a review
- while old friend liquidjolt has a written a piece on Make Decent Coffee
- Cups of Coffee London has a picture gallery
- and there’s even coverage from Holland and The Coffee Vine (who also covered the Amsterdam Coffee Festival which I wasn’t able to go to)!
|15 HANBURY STREET • THE OLD TRUMAN BREWERY • LONDON • E1 6QR|
|Thursday||10:00 – 17:00 (Industry only)|
|Friday||10:00 – 17:00 (Industry only)|
|17:00 – 20:00 (Evening Session)|
|20:00 – 22:00 (Launch Party)|
|Saturday||10:00 – 13:00 (Brunch Session)|
|13:00 – 16:00 (Lunch Session)|
|16:00 – 19:00 (Teatime Session)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 13:00 (Brunch Session)|
|13:00 – 16:00 (Lunch Session)|
|16:00 – 19:00 (Teatime Session)|
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