It’s very much the season for shows/festivals. April saw the London Coffee Festival, while I’m writing this during the World of Coffee in Dublin. However, today’s Saturday Supplement is all about last month’s Caffè Culture show. I’ve already covered the Caffè Culture Awards, where I was judging the Best Drink Award. However, in between my judging duties, I did have time for a (brief) look around the show.
Caffè Culture’s a different beast from the London Coffee Festival: for starters, it’s trade only, so tends to have a more relaxed atmosphere, particularly compared to the Saturday/Sunday at the Festival, where people are in and out within three hours. Of course, the exhibitors are also different, with an emphasis on the café trade as a whole, not just speciality coffee.
That said, Caffè Culture has made a definite effort in the last two years to embrace the speciality end of the market, providing a platform for small roasters to exhibit their wares. This, it turned out, was the ideal opportunity to catch up with some people I’d missed at the London Coffee Festival, as well as meeting a few that I’d not come across before. And, of course, there was cake.
You can see what I found after the gallery.
My first stop at Caffè Culture was Modern Standard, still a relatively new name in coffee roasting circles, but already a very successful one. I’d spent a fair bit of time with Modern Standard at this year’s London Coffee Festival, but since I’d not had any coffee that morning, I made a beeline for the stand and the wonderful Zsuzsa, who I’d first met at the Coffee Festival. Although there was a lot of coffee on offer, we soon narrowed it down to a Kenyan Thunguri AA which Zsuzsa had roasted both for espresso and filter. Never one to make choices if I don’t have to, I decided it was best to try both, with the espresso coming as a split shot, espresso in one cup, a piccolo in the other, so I could see how it went in milk as well.
The piccolo was very smooth, but I found the coffee a little anonymous in milk. On its own, however, it really shone. The same smoothness was there, but it was more acidic on the second mouthful, the coffee really developing by the third mouthful (by which point it was all gone…). The same characteristics were there in the filter, once again a very smooth, very drinkable cup and quite different from the stereotypical punchy, fruity Kenyans that I’m used to, particularly in espressos.
As luck would have it, next door to Modern Standard were old friends of the Coffee Spot, Cakesmiths, who’d come all the way from Bristol just to feed me cake for breakfast (or something like that). I had a lovely slice of the banana bread, toasted of course, while when I popped back at the end of the day, I found an enormous box waiting for me which I duly took home, discovering an entire Smashing Pumpkin Loaf inside (which I took to Porto with me). While on the subject of cake, I also had a chance to visit more old friends in the shape of Exeter’s Exploding Bakery, who are now making inroads into the London café market, with a dedicated (wholesale) London bakery.
However, the main focus for me was the roasters area. Now in its second year, this is a chance for small roasters to display at a large event. Much like the newly-instituted Roasters Village at the London Coffee Festival, each roasters gets a table, along with a grinder (or two) and a La Marzocco Linea Mini. There was an interesting mix of established names and newcomers (at least, newcomers to me) in attendance: I’ll run through them in the order I came across them.
I began with Limini Coffee from Bradford. I’ve come across Limini a few times in my travels, often in settings that aren’t considered particularly “speciality”. I’ve always enjoyed Limini’s coffee, so it was great to finally meet the owner, Youri, as well as making the acquaintance of Limini’s barista trainer, Vicky. I was treated to a latte art masterclass, with both Vicky and Youri taking turns to pour out their best patterns.
Then it was time to move on to Moonroast, a family-owned business from Alresford in Hampshire. Although a relatively new roaster, the family has quite a pedigree in the coffee and tea trade, stretching back three generations. Moonroast is also quite typical of many new, small roasteries, operating in the local market, rather than trying to establish itself as a national name. Although I didn’t get a chance to try any of the coffee, I spent an enjoyable 15 minutes talking coffee with the founders, Francis and Judy, as well as Francis’ father.
Next was another “old hand” so to speak, Isle of Wight’s Island Roasted, who I have yet to go down to visit (bad me), so it was good to (all too briefly) catch up. Next to Island Roasted was another new name, Bauhaus Coffee. Initially I was drawn to the packaging, which takes its inspiration (as well as the company name) from the Bauhaus movement from the inter-war years in Germany.
Moving on, my final stop was at the Decadent Decaf Coffee Co, which, as the name suggests, roasts decaf, a subject close to my heart. Decadent Decaf has an espresso blend as well as four single-origins, from Ethiopia, Kenya, Costa Rica and Sumatra, all decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Decaf method. Guy, the man behind Decadent Decaf, pulled me a shot of the espresso blend, which I really enjoyed, as well as giving me a bag of each of the coffees in the range to take home with me. I’ve been enjoying it so far, but it can be a bit hit and miss, with some of the cups coming out really well and others surprisingly flat. I’m not sure if that’s me or the coffee though. Finally, Guy also gave me a bag of Marley Coffee, which I took to Porto with me, where it went down a storm in my cafetiere every morning!
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