Cup North 2014 Round Up

An espresso being pulled on Foundry's Londinium lever espresso machine at Cup North.Last weekend, I made a brief return up north to Cup North, Manchester’s two-day coffee festival. It was lovely, not just because of Cup North, but also because I could catch up with old friends such as Caffeine & Co and North Tea Power, discover new ones, such as the amazing Pot Kettle Black, and hop over the Pennines to Huddersfield and the delightful Coffee Kabin.

But what of Cup North itself? Well, if you’ve been to the London Coffee Festival, it was a bit like that. Then again, it wasn’t. Cup North was on a very different, much more manageable and, dare I say it, friendly, scale. Not that anyone at the London Coffee Festival has ever been unfriendly, far from it, but the sheer size of London and the number of visitors crammed in, make it a very hectic affair, even if, like me, you’re there for three days!

In contrast, Cup North was much more laidback, with more time to talk and socialise, and a chance to really get to know the various exhibitors. In all there were about 30 of them and you’d think, in two whole days, I’d have managed to visit them all…

August 2015: Breaking news! Tickets are now on sale for this year’s Cup North, taking place on 7th/8th November in Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse.

You can find out whether I managed it after the gallery.

  • So, where exactly is this Cup North thing anyway?
  • Okay, this is looking hopeful...
  • Hmmm... One of the least promising entrances I've seen...
  • Just check the sign... I seem to be in the right place.
  • This shady character is also telling me that's the way in!
  • Despite my misgivings, inside I go to find that the natives are friendly after all!
  • And here I am. Welcome to Cup North. There's this whole row of stands...
  • ... and another one running parallel to it! This is going to be fun!
So, where exactly is this Cup North thing anyway?1 Okay, this is looking hopeful...2 Hmmm... One of the least promising entrances I've seen...3 Just check the sign... I seem to be in the right place.4 This shady character is also telling me that's the way in!5 Despite my misgivings, inside I go to find that the natives are friendly after all!6 And here I am. Welcome to Cup North. There's this whole row of stands...7 ... and another one running parallel to it! This is going to be fun!8
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Cup North was at Artwork, a long, low, two storey brick building that could have been designed to hold a coffee festival. Cup North itself had the top floor, which was laid out in two long corridors, each with bays on either side which held the various exhibitors’ stands. There was also, outside on the courtyard on the other side of the building, a street food market organised by GRUB. In the evening, this was given over to various bands, none of which I managed to see (on Saturday I was shattered and on Sunday, had to get back to London).

I had a great time at Cup North and got up to lots of interesting things, but I’m going to cover these in the next two Saturday Supplements, starting with Old Friends & New Roasters and finishing off with Coffee Cuppings & Street Food. For now, rather perversely, I want to concentrate on the exhibitors that I didn’t actually visit. Yes, despite being at Cup North for two whole days, there were a depressing number of stands that I didn’t actually get around to visiting and plenty more where I just stuck my head over the table and said hello!

In my defence I will say that compared to the London Coffee Festival, where there were quite a few exhibitors that I wasn’t that interested in, at Cup North, I pretty much wanted to visit each and every exhibitor.

So, how did I get on? Well, let’s start with the first of the two rows. You can see who was there in the gallery below.

  • To start at the beginning, the merchandising stall was just inside the door.
  • Next up, first stand on the right, the lovely Kokoa Collection, purveyors of fine hot chocolate.
  • Here's the equally lovely Paul, or the left luggage locker as I refer to him. Thanks, Paul.
  • Opposite side of the aisle was the La Cimbali stand, which I failed utterly to visit!
  • Next up was Ancoats Coffee and the lovely Jamie who seemed perpetually busy!
  • Opposite Ancoats was Hope & Glory, with the genius idea of a sofa. I spent a while over there.
  • From the other side of the Pennines, Foundry Coffee Roasters popped over from Sheffield.
  • Meanwhile, closer to (Cup North's) home, here comes Manchester's Passion Friut.
  • Back on the other side of the aisle I found Clifton Coffee Roasters in collaboration with TAKK.
  • Coffee Hit was there, selling a limited range from its fabulous on-line store.
  • However, I utterly failed to visit the Coopers stand, despite the presence of a Black Eagle!
  • I also utterly failed to see the guys from Mission Coffee Works, despite my best intentions.
  • At least I visited Holmforth's Grumpy Mule, having missed out at successive London Fesitvals.
  • Back across the aisle, I also missed out on  Duke's Cold Brew, seen here setting up the stand.
  • All the way from London were Climpson & Sons, roasters of some of my favourite coffee.
  • I popped in to say hi right at the end of Sunday and had a sneaky espresso!
  • Almost at the end of the aisle, saving the best to the last, was Glasgow's Dear Green Coffee.
  • Across the aisle was DR Wakefield, green-bean importers from London.
  • Next to DR Wakefield was Canton Tea. Tea, at a coffee festival? What's the world coming to?
  • Right at the back was Makers Dozen, a collaborative art project.
  • And finally, tucked away in a corner was Union Hand-roasted, another really popular stand.
To start at the beginning, the merchandising stall was just inside the door.1 Next up, first stand on the right, the lovely Kokoa Collection, purveyors of fine hot chocolate.2 Here's the equally lovely Paul, or the left luggage locker as I refer to him. Thanks, Paul.3 Opposite side of the aisle was the La Cimbali stand, which I failed utterly to visit!4 Next up was Ancoats Coffee and the lovely Jamie who seemed perpetually busy!5 Opposite Ancoats was Hope & Glory, with the genius idea of a sofa. I spent a while over there.6 From the other side of the Pennines, Foundry Coffee Roasters popped over from Sheffield.7 Meanwhile, closer to (Cup North's) home, here comes Manchester's Passion Friut.8 Back on the other side of the aisle I found Clifton Coffee Roasters in collaboration with TAKK.9 Coffee Hit was there, selling a limited range from its fabulous on-line store.10 However, I utterly failed to visit the Coopers stand, despite the presence of a Black Eagle! 11 I also utterly failed to see the guys from Mission Coffee Works, despite my best intentions.12 At least I visited Holmforth's Grumpy Mule, having missed out at successive London Fesitvals.13 Back across the aisle, I also missed out on  Duke's Cold Brew, seen here setting up the stand.14 All the way from London were Climpson & Sons, roasters of some of my favourite coffee.15 I popped in to say hi right at the end of Sunday and had a sneaky espresso!16 Almost at the end of the aisle, saving the best to the last, was Glasgow's Dear Green Coffee.17 Across the aisle was DR Wakefield, green-bean importers from London.18 Next to DR Wakefield was Canton Tea. Tea, at a coffee festival? What's the world coming to?19 Right at the back was Makers Dozen, a collaborative art project.20 And finally, tucked away in a corner was Union Hand-roasted, another really popular stand.21
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My strategy was fairly simple: I wanted to visit everyone. When it quickly became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen, I decided to focus on people I hadn’t seen before, such as Hope & Glory from Hull, Sheffield’s Foundry, and local roasters (for example, Passion Fruit Coffee), plus catching up with old friends like Dear Green Coffee (although that was as much self-preservation on my behalf since I strongly suspect Lisa would have killed me had I not stopped by). I also decided to focus on roasters rather than equipment suppliers, which meant that I missed out on La Cimbali and Coopers. I did briefly get to say hello to Coffee Hit, but it was only displaying a very small range of its stock, so there was nothing there that I actually wanted to buy.

Despite my desire to visit roasters I’d not seen before, I failed utterly to catch up with the guys from Mission Coffee Works, which was a shocking oversight on my part. All I can say is that I ran out of time! I also didn’t make it to see Duke’s Cold Brew, although given my struggles with cold brew, that’s less of an issue (to me).

Other than that, I managed to do quite well. I caught up with Paul of Kokoa Collection, who in return for letting me use his stand as a left luggage locker, gave me a bag of his award-winning hot chocolate (I’m not sure that was the right way round: shouldn’t I have been giving him something?). I also said hi to Jamie at Ancoats Coffee Co, who I featured in the latest issue of Caffeine Magazine (I came away with a lovely bag of his excellent decaf as well).

Having been drinking its coffee all around the country at the likes of Manchester’s Fig + Sparrow, it was good to finally be able to put faces to names at the Climpson & Sons stand where I had my last coffee of the day on Sunday, a cheeky little espresso.

However, that was only half the exhibitors. There was a whole other row to go. You can see who was there in the gallery below.

  • Moving over to the second row of stands, there were lots of talks throughout both days.
  • Across the aisle was Square Mile, doing live roasting and proving extremely popular.
  • Next door to the talks were old friends, North Star Roast, all the way(!) from Leeds.
  • North Star was launching a new range of packaging. How exciting!
  • Next door to North Star was Falcon, speciality green coffee importers from Harrogate.
  • Across the way, another importer, InterAmerican Coffee, who never seemed to be there...
  • Then came a host of far-travelled wanders: all the way from Bristol, it's Extract.
  • And across from them, from even further afield, it's Brighton's Small Batch!
  • And talking of having come a long way, how about Origin, all the way from Cornwall?
  • There was also the La Marzocco pop-up cafe which I failed to visit even once!
  • Looks like there was serious dialing-in going on here!
  • From closer to home, just up the M6 in fact, J Atkinson and a 1950s FEAMA E61.
  • And even closer to home (but from Yorkshire!), Huddersfield's Bean Brothers.
  • On the second day, James Guard from Coffee Circle popped up from downstairs.
  • He'd bought his Loveshack blend with him...
  • Nice display in the corner...
  • It wasn't just coffee: pop outside and there was street food, organised by Grub.
  • Back inside, this being a coffee festival, there was a lot of coffee swapping going on... Here Grumpy Mule exchanges gifts with J Atkinson...
  • Meanwhile, I got this mug and bag of the Cup North blend just for turning up...
  • This, by the way, was my full haul.
  • Well, I say full. I forgot to mention the book!
  • However, this all pales into insignificence compared to haul Jamie of Ancoats picked up!
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I didn’t do quite so well over here, completely missing out on green coffee importers Falcon Speciality Coffee and InterAmerican Coffee. I also failed to see any of the talks, except one (more of which in a future post), completely missing out on the Tamper Tantrum talks. Talking of missing out, I failed to get to any of the La Marzocco pop-up cafés, even though it included the likes of Leeds‘ La Bottega Milanese (I did at least manage to catch up with owner, Alex).

I also manage to check out LeedsNorth Star, who, as well appearing on the Coffee Spot in a few weeks, were also showcasing some new packaging. Talking of roasters, I did the rounds of three distant visitors, all favourites of mine: Bristol’s Extract (who gave me a copy of the excellent South West Independent Coffee Guide), Brighton’s Small Batch and Origin, who came all the way from Cornwall.

Closer to home, it was also a pleasure to catch up with James Guard of Coffee Circle, who I first met at Coffee Fix. James has recently moved into new premises, with a bigger roaster, in the Artwork building itself! I had hoped to pop down and see the new roastery, but alas, I ran out of time (again!). Coffee Circle roasts some lovely coffee, including one of my favourite espresso blends, Barnraiser, the house-blend at Manchester’s Grindsmith.

That’s it for now. There’s a lot more to come, but for that you will have to read the next two Saturday Supplements in my Cup North series. Part I, which features Old Friends & New Roasters, while Part II covers Coffee Cuppings, Miscellaneous & Street Food.

Anyone who didn’t get a mention here, don’t worry; you’re in either Part I or Part II!

In closing though, I’d just like to say a big thanks to Hannah, Ricardo and the rest of the Cup North team who put on a lovely coffee festival and who have created something really, really special up in Manchester. Best of all, Cup North is back for another year, this time on the weekend of 7th/8th November in Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse. You can get your tickets here.


Don’t just take my word for it that Cup North was great. Here’s the thoughts of some others who attended the event:


Cup North is now a well-established part of the annual coffee calendar. You can see how I got on at the second Cup North in 2015, and at the third Cup North, now known as the Manchester Coffee Festival.


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