London Coffee Festival 2015: The Coffee

The London Coffee Festival LogoWelcome to the fifth and final of my detailed London Coffee Festival Saturday Supplements to go with my round-up of the festival as a whole. In this series, I’ve covered the interesting coffee kit that I came across, followed with my coffee experiences, my time at the La Cimbali Sensory Sessions and the various reusable cups that I picked up at the festival. For this, the final instalment, it’s the turn of the coffee, arguably what the Coffee Festival is all about!

As was the case in previous years, I could have spent all three days I was at the Festival visiting roasters old and new and I still wouldn’t have got around them all. So, with apologies to all the wonderful roasters I failed to visit, here’s a round-up of all the wonderful roasters I did manage to catch up with. As I did at Cup North, I’ve split them into two categories: Old Friends and New, representing roasters that I’ve met before and those who I ran into for the first time. I’ve also taken a look at the True Artisan Café, the innovative Dear Origin & Sons, and a general round-up of everything else I saw!

You can see what I found after the gallery.

  • First up is the Grumpy Mule stand, with the legitimate question: why so grumpy?
  • The business end of the Grumpy Mule stand...
  • ... where lots of coffee was made and consumed that day.
  • There was plenty of variety on offer as well, with no fewer than four grinders!
  • Plenty of cups too!
  • Grumpy Mule's Festival Special was to have a label with three words of your choice on it.
  • Here's some that Grumpy Mule thought of earlier...
  • ... and some more!
  • Naturally I went for these three words :-)
  • Next, who's that I spy on the La Cimbali Espresso Pit Stop...
  • ... hard at work, making coffee?
  • Yes, it's Hope & Glory, who, very thoughfully, brought along some real cups!
  • Hope & Glory was show-casing its exclusive festival espresso blend.
  • It would have been rude not to try it...
  • ... especially when it came in its own Hope & Glory cup!
  • Finally, it's The Roasting Party, topping last year's massive sofa with banks of bench-seating.
  • Not only did it provide lots of seating, but there were splendid views from the top!
  • The theme this year was from 'origin to cup', starting with the humble coffee tree.
  • A green-bean importer was on hand to explain how beans got from tree to roaster.
  • Talking of which, there was also a roaster there too!
  • Naturally, once the beans have been roasted, you have brew them...
  • A bird's eye view of the brewing end of The Roasting Party stand.
  • The twin espresso machines, in a rare quiet moment!
  • More usually it was like this: full steam ahead!
  • And all hands to the pumps! Or portafilters...
  • There was also a brew-bar and plenty of bags of coffee were available. But what's this?
  • Tea? Australian tea at that!
  • Hopefully there's not too much tea though...
  • Oh no! It's everywhere!!
  • At last, order has been resumed!
  • There was also some cold brew on hand from good beans...
  • ... while no self-respecting coffee stand would be complete without a resident DJ!
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Old Friends

Every year Grumpy Mule take a big stand opposite the True Artisan Café and every year I seem to manage to avoid visiting them. However, having caught up with them at Cup North, I was determined not to miss out this year. Grumpy Mule had its usual selection of coffee on display, a mix of single-origins and blends, and it was doing an interesting feature where you could have your own custom label printed on a bag of Grumpy Mule coffee, using any three words you liked. Mine, of course, we’re Brian’s Coffee Spot! Naturally I was given the bag to take away with me, a single-origin coffee from Tanzania, which, rather embarrassingly, I’ve yet to try.

Someone else trying a variation of the three word trick was Hope & Glory. Like Grumpy Mule, I also caught up with them for the first time at Cup North having long been a fan of the coffee. At the London Coffee Festival, Hope & Glory were on the La Cimbali Espresso Pit Stop in the main hall, knocking out shots of an exclusive festival blend. The idea here was to come up three words to describe the coffee, with the best three-word description winning a prize. My three words were “sweet, smooth and punchy”. As for the blend itself, I liked it, although it was probably a little too punchy for my palette. Hope & Glory had also hit on the excellent idea of handing out 50 gram sample bags rather than full 250 gram bags of its coffee. I picked up a handful, including one of the last bags of the amazing Blenheim espresso blend.

Last in the old friends category is The Roasting Party, who I didn’t run into at Cup North, but who I run into everywhere else! At last year’s festival, The Roasting Party was an instant hit with a massive sofa, one of the few places where I could take my weight off my feet! This year, the stand was even better, with a receding bank of bench seats, which not only provided loads of seats, but also gave an excellent view of the surrounding stands! The theme of the stand this year was “from origin to cup”, starting with some little coffee plants in pots that adorned the bench-seats. There was also a green-bean importer on hand, plus a San Franciscan sample-roaster, and, of course, multiple espresso machines and a couple of brew bars, which, of course, spent all festival banging out drink after drink to coffee-craving festival goers. I made a point of popping by each day to take the weight off my feet and, on the first day I was there, I also had a latte-art masterclass from UK latte art champion, Dhan. And, unsurprisingly, I left laden down with bags of coffee and three lovely Roasting Party cups!

  • First of my new coffee friends from the London Coffee Festival, Island Roasted...
  • ... who roast coffee down on the Isle of Wight.
  • There was an interesting selection of single-orign beans being roasted...
  • ... which were on offer to try as a filter.
  • I tried the Honduras Finca Los Mangos in my 6oz JOCO Cup. It was a nice, juicy brew.
  • The other 'new' roaster I ran across was Pact. I've known about Pact for a while...
  • ... and caught up with them at the Sage Appliances Stand at the Festival.
  • Pact was showcasing two coffees in conjunction with Sage: the Fruit and Nut blend...
  • .. and a single-origin Buenos Aires from Colombia...
  • Never turn down the chance to get a bottomless portafilter shot!
  • I played it safe, by the way, and went for the Fruit and Nut espresso blend as a flat white.
  • And finally, I'll leave you with the full haul of coffee I took away with me: 3 kg in all!!
First of my new coffee friends from the London Coffee Festival, Island Roasted...1 ... who roast coffee down on the Isle of Wight.2 There was an interesting selection of single-orign beans being roasted...3 ... which were on offer to try as a filter.4 I tried the Honduras Finca Los Mangos in my 6oz JOCO Cup. It was a nice, juicy brew.5 The other 'new' roaster I ran across was Pact. I've known about Pact for a while...6 ... and caught up with them at the Sage Appliances Stand at the Festival.7 Pact was showcasing two coffees in conjunction with Sage: the Fruit and Nut blend...8 .. and a single-origin Buenos Aires from Colombia...9 Never turn down the chance to get a bottomless portafilter shot!10 I played it safe, by the way, and went for the Fruit and Nut espresso blend as a flat white.11 And finally, I'll leave you with the full haul of coffee I took away with me: 3 kg in all!!12
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New Friends

First in the new friends category is Island Roasted, from the Isle of Wight. This was very much a chance discovery: wandering around as I do, I happened upon the stall. Island Roasted is very much an Isle of Wight affair at the moment, although it’s been roasting since 2010, steadily expanding its volume and range. These days it roasts two or three blends and a handful of single-origins. I tried the Honduras Finca Los Mangos, which, as a filter, was a really juicy, complex brew.

The other roaster I “discovered” was Pact. I’ve been aware of Pact since it launched, providing a selection of blends and single-origins by mail order, but I’d never come across them in person until the Festival. The guys from Pact were on the Sage Appliances stand, where they’d teamed up with Sage to provide coffee subscriptions with each new machine. After all, if you’re going to spend all that money on a new espresso machine, you want decent coffee to go with it! Pact had a couple of options that were running through the Sage machines: I played it safe and went with the Fruit and Nut espresso blend, which, I have to say, went exceedingly well in milk, even when I made it! A testament to both the Sage espresso machine and to the coffee. Pact also let me have some of its decaf for the Coffee Spot Decaf Challenge.

Finally, a note about all the coffee I got at the London Coffee Festival. In all, I was given about three kilograms of coffee, an embarrassingly large amount, since, in a good week, I’ll get through maybe 300 grams (not including decaf). So, that worked out at about a 10-week supply. What made it worse is that I was off to America less than a month later, so there was no chance I’d get through it all while it was still fresh. Instead, what I’ve discovered is that if I put the coffee in the freezer as soon as I get it, then take it out, defrost it and use it as normal, it keeps pretty well (I don’t advocate putting it in the freezer, take a bit out and putting it back again; that doesn’t work nearly as well). So, to everyone who gave me coffee at the Festival (including Extract, Heart and Graft and Small Batch), I apologise. I’d love to tell everyone how wonderful it was, but the majority of it’s still in my freezer!

  • The choas that is the ever-popular True Artisan Cafe.
  • This year there were three cafes/roasters on at a time, arranged in an 'n' shape.
  • Each gets a La Marzocco espresso machine and a pair of grinders...
  • ... and a chance to show off their coffee or a signature drink.
  • These days its a chance for me to catch up with old friends, such as Carvetii...
  • ... who always seem so happy to be at the Festival.
  • This year, as in previous years, Carvetii was showcasing its seasonal espresso blend.
  • Well, I had to have a shot. I love watching espresso extract...
  • ... especially into glass. Good job I had my new JOCO Cups with me!
  • Now for some milk...
  • ... et voila! A lovely flat white.
  • It's also a chance to catch up with some of my favourite coffee shops...
  • ... in this case, Curators, of Gallery and Studio fame.
  • I also tried Curators' signature drink, a spiced latte (although I had a piccolo!).
  • There were lots of familar names there, such as the Boston Tea Party, serving Extract...
  • ... and no gallery of True Artisan Cafe pictures would be complete with Terrone & Edy Piro!
  • I also had a chance to  meet some new people, such as Iris & June, with roaster, Ozone.
  • Sometimes, though, it was very hard to tell just who had taken over the spot...
  • ... but not when someone like Dear Green was on the scene. Now that's how to do it!
The choas that is the ever-popular True Artisan Cafe.1 This year there were three cafes/roasters on at a time, arranged in an 'n' shape.2 Each gets a La Marzocco espresso machine and a pair of grinders...3 ... and a chance to show off their coffee or a signature drink.4 These days its a chance for me to catch up with old friends, such as Carvetii...5 ... who always seem so happy to be at the Festival.6 This year, as in previous years, Carvetii was showcasing its seasonal espresso blend.7 Well, I had to have a shot. I love watching espresso extract...8 ... especially into glass. Good job I had my new JOCO Cups with me!9 Now for some milk...10 ... et voila! A lovely flat white.11 It's also a chance to catch up with some of my favourite coffee shops...12 ... in this case, Curators, of Gallery and Studio fame.13 I also tried Curators' signature drink, a spiced latte (although I had a piccolo!).14 There were lots of familar names there, such as the Boston Tea Party, serving Extract...15 ... and no gallery of True Artisan Cafe pictures would be complete with Terrone & Edy Piro!16 I also had a chance to  meet some new people, such as Iris & June, with roaster, Ozone.17 Sometimes, though, it was very hard to tell just who had taken over the spot...18 ... but not when someone like Dear Green was on the scene. Now that's how to do it!19
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True Artisan Café

For me, one of the best parts of the London Coffee Festival is the True Artisan Café. Why go wandering around the country, seeking out the best roasters and cafés, when they’ll come to you? This year, however, I didn’t do a very good job of actually making it to the True Artisan Café: quite often I’d try, walk five steps, and then get distracted by something or stopped for a chat by someone else. So apologies to North Star, Terrone & Co and The Boston Tea Party, all of whom I meant to catch up with and didn’t…

I did, however, manage to catch up with Angharad and Gareth of Cumbria’s finest, Carvetii, one of my favourite roasters. One day I’ll actually make it up to Cumbria to say hello instead of making them come to visit me at various festivals. I also met up with Curators, one of my favourite London spots, who were trying out a signature drink, a spiced latte (although, needing to watch my caffeine intake, I tried it as a spiced piccolo). It smelled like a spiced gingerbread (which I love) but taste-wise, it wasn’t really my thing. It wasn’t unpleasant, but I still find that I don’t really like putting things in my coffee. However, if you are going to go for that sort of thing, I find it preferable to putting sugary syrups in your coffee…

Finally, I caught up with Jodie of Iris & June. Iris & June is a coffee shop near Victoria Station in London which has long been on my list, but which I only got around to visiting in March, 2016. In my defence, it’s a part of London that I rarely go to and the two previous times I had planned to go, my plans fell through at short notice. So, hurrah for the True Artisan Café; at least I managed to say hello.

  • One of the most innovative uses of the True Artisan Cafe was Dear Origin & Sons... Three roasters, Glasgow's Dear Green, Cornwall's Origin and London's Climpson & Sons, got together to produce a blend. Each roasted one component, then they all produced their own blends from the three components, using whatever ratio they liked.
  • First up is Glasgow's Dear Green Coffee...
  • You could try it straight up or with a dash of honey and whisky (a Glaswegian Corretto).
  • I tried the Caffe Corretto first...
  • ... and then, so I could compare it to the other two, I tried it on its own.
  • Next in line, going around the True Artisan Cafe, is Origin...
  • Ineterestingly, its blend majored on the Climpson & Sons component...
  • Once again my new JOCO Cups six ounce glass was put to use.
  • Finally, Climpson & Sons, where it looks like someone's had too much coffee!!
  • Climpson & Sons was only offering its blend with milk...
  • ... but just for me, the barista made a straight espresso shot to compare to the others.
One of the most innovative uses of the True Artisan Cafe was Dear Origin & Sons... Three roasters, Glasgow's Dear Green, Cornwall's Origin and London's Climpson & Sons, got together to produce a blend. Each roasted one component, then they all produced their own blends from the three components, using whatever ratio they liked.1 First up is Glasgow's Dear Green Coffee...2 You could try it straight up or with a dash of honey and whisky (a Glaswegian Corretto).3 I tried the Caffe Corretto first...4 ... and then, so I could compare it to the other two, I tried it on its own.5 Next in line, going around the True Artisan Cafe, is Origin...6 Ineterestingly, its blend majored on the Climpson & Sons component...7 Once again my new JOCO Cups six ounce glass was put to use.8 Finally, Climpson & Sons, where it looks like someone's had too much coffee!!9 Climpson & Sons was only offering its blend with milk...10 ... but just for me, the barista made a straight espresso shot to compare to the others.11
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Dear Origin & Sons

One of the most innovative uses of the True Artisan Café was when Glasgow’s Dear Green Coffee, Cornwall’s Origin and London’s Climpson and Sons got together to prove that speciality roasters could play together nicely (although this has been previously done, with four Manchester roasters coming together to produce a bespoke blend for Cup North last year).

The Dear Origin & Sons challenge was simple. Each roaster roasted a single-origin (all African coffees) which would form part of the blend; it was then up to the three roasters to blend the constituent parts in whatever proportion they liked to produce their own version of the blend. The outcome was, to say the least, interesting!

I started with Dear Green, who had blended 40% of its Rwandan Karengera with 30% of Origin’s Tanzania Tweega and 30% of Climpson & Sons Burundi Kayanza. I was expecting not to like it, usually preferring my African coffees as filters rather than espressos, but actually I really liked it. Although it was quite fruity, it wasn’t too sharp, instead producing a nice, rounded, well-balanced cup. I also liked the Origin blend, which, rather bravely, featured 50% of the Climpson & Sons Burundi, only 35% of its own component and a mere 15% of Dear Green’s Rwandan. However, it too was a well-balanced, complex cup which, although it was a close-run thing, I preferred over the Dear Green blend.

Finally, I tried the Climpson & Sons offering, which was technically only being offered with milk. However, for comparison purposes, I got the barista to make me a straight espresso shot. I also cunningly failed to make a note of the ratios, but having had it on its own, let’s just say that I can see why Climpson and Sons were offering it through milk… In defence of Climpson and Sons, I’ve often found its espresso blends (and single-origin roasts) a little too bright and fruity for my palette and so it was with this one.

So, for me, the winner was Origin. Did anyone else take the challenge? If so, what was your favourite?

  • It wasn't all coffe though. There was cake as well, such as these from B-Tempted.
  • A pair of dark chocolate & hazelnut friands from B-Tempted pose with my coffee...
  • I also got some to take home with me. Check out the Matcha Green Tea one on the right.
  • There were also doughnuts. Crosstown doughnuts no less.
  • You had to come early in the day when there was still plenty of choice...
  • So much choice...
  • One (or two, or maybe more) Crosstown Doughnuts may have been purchased...
  • Talking of sweet things, Kokoa Collection hot chocolate was there for another year.
  • Paul from Kokoa Collection always seems so happy to be there.
  • Mind you, with all those awards, who can blame him!
  • So much hot chocolate...
  • Finally, it wouldn't London Coffee Festival without something to eat from Arancini Brothers.
  • This time it was a risotto burger. And fries. Of course.
It wasn't all coffe though. There was cake as well, such as these from B-Tempted.1 A pair of dark chocolate & hazelnut friands from B-Tempted pose with my coffee...2 I also got some to take home with me. Check out the Matcha Green Tea one on the right.3 There were also doughnuts. Crosstown doughnuts no less.4 You had to come early in the day when there was still plenty of choice...5 So much choice...6 One (or two, or maybe more) Crosstown Doughnuts may have been purchased...7 Talking of sweet things, Kokoa Collection hot chocolate was there for another year.8 Paul from Kokoa Collection always seems so happy to be there.9 Mind you, with all those awards, who can blame him!10 So much hot chocolate...11 Finally, it wouldn't London Coffee Festival without something to eat from Arancini Brothers.12 This time it was a risotto burger. And fries. Of course.13
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And Finally…

Before I go, just a quick reminder that it wasn’t all about the coffee, for where would coffee be without its soulmate, cake? For me, the (cake) highlight of the London Coffee Festival was running into Sarah of B-Tempted. I’d first met Sarah at the 2013 London Coffee Festival. If you’ve not come across Sarah and B-Tempted before, she makes the most amazing brownies and friands. What’s even more impressive is that they are gluten-free, although you’d never know just from tasting them. My advice: always make friends with the lady who carries free samples of cake around with her in her handbag!

Another cake win was the Crosstown Doughnuts stand. Crosstown supply some of my favourite coffee shops in London and the doughnuts are outstanding. One or two (or possibly more) doughnuts may have been purchased and consumed at the Coffee Festival (and that’s just by me!).

Talking of sweet things, it was also good to renew my acquaintance with Paul from Kokoa Collection, supplier of some of the best hot chocolate in the country. It’s not a drink I often indulge in, but when I do, I make sure I look out for Kokoa Collection on the menu!

Finally, the food village that had been a feature of previous London Coffee Festivals was much reduced this year, having been replaced with the White Label Kitchen. Thankfully the wonderful Arancini Brothers were still in attendance, so I didn’t go hungry. Somehow I can’t imagine a London Coffee Festival without them to keep me going!

So, that’s it for another year. If you’re missing your festival fix, don’t forget that there’s the New York Coffee Festival, which will be hitting the Big Apple from Friday, 25th September to Sunday, 27th. Sadly I won’t be there, but that’s no reason you shouldn’t go! Then, before you know it, it will be London Coffee Festival time again, which for 2016 is back at the Old Truman Brewery from Thursday, 7th April  to Sunday 10th. Next year’s festival promises to be even bigger and better than before and having had a sneak preview of the layout and exhibitors list, I can tell you I’m already excited!


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8 thoughts on “London Coffee Festival 2015: The Coffee

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