It’s London Coffee Festival time again! Yes, that’s right, three weeks from now, the London Coffee Festival will be in full swing, once again gracing the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane from Thursday, 6th April to Sunday, 9th April.
If this is your first London Coffee Festival, take a look at my round up of last year’s festival. Alternatively, if you’ve been before, it’s all very familiar, with industry days on Thursday/Friday and three three-hour consumer sessions on Saturday/Sunday (Brunch, Lunch and Teatime). In a change from previous years, there’s an extended consumer session on Friday evening from four o’clock in the afternoon to 10 o’clock in the evening. This includes access to the Espresso Martini Launch Party (8 o’clock onwards) and is probably the best-value ticket in the whole event.
Talking of tickets, my usual advice applies: get your ticket now. For starters, you get a significant discount on the on-the-door price. What’s more, tickets are already selling fast! Leave it to the day of the festival and it could easily be sold out. Also, if you are attending the Industry Days, be aware that these are no longer free, so once again, it pays to book ahead.
With that out of the way, let’s get on with the preview of the London Coffee Festival 2017, which you can read after the gallery.
As ever, the best source of information is the London Coffee Festival website, which has a host of interesting articles on the website. However, I still miss the handy floorplan that was produced in previous years, with all the various Festival Zones marked on it.
A criticism of the London Coffee Festival in previous years has been that it’s very, very crowded. The festival organisers went a long way to addressing this last year when they added a whole new downstairs section to the festival. This provided a massive additional space, which was largely filled by the big ticket items, including the espresso machine manufacturers and makers of Automatic Filter Machines who were out in force. It also provided a fitting setting for the stage for the Coffee Masters event.
As well as providing additional exhibition space, this removed some of the pressure upstairs, which led to a more relaxed experience as there was finally space to move around. Despite the shiny machines downstairs, upstairs, in places like the Shoreditch zone, is where I’m most at home, nosing around the little stands, exploring the latest reusable cup, looking at the latest kit or checking out the new roasters. It’s also home to the True Artisan Café, a pop-up coffee shop, which, each session, features three of the country’s top cafés, each serving their own signature drink. Instead of having to wander the country to try them all (that’s my job, by the way: hands off!), the London Coffee Festival brings them to you, all under one roof. Sadly, the running order is no longer posted on the festival website, so to find out who is on when, you’ll need to check the leaflet you’re given in your goodie-bag at the door.
A new addition last year was the Roasters Village, situated next to the True Artisan Café. This will be back this year and gives smaller roasters a chance to showcase their wares to a larger audience. Talking of roasters, last year I noted that Workshop was the only roaster to bring along some decaf and, as a result, did a roaring trade! I note that this year, friends of the Coffee Spot, Decadent Decaf, will be there, so I’m looking forward to some more excellent decaf. If any other roasters fancy stepping up to the plate and bringing some decaf along, do let me know and I might re-run the Decaf Challenge.
In previous years, some of my personal festival highlights have been my coffee experiences from the La Cimbali Sensory Sessions in 2015 to The Canteen from Square Mile in 2016. Clearly I’m not the only one who has enjoyed this sort of thing, since this year, the festival is majoring on what I’d call coffee experiences. There are eight in all, ranging from practical, skills-based events such as Latte Art Live through pairing events, such as the Tasting Room, all the way to the likes of UCC’s Immersive Coffee Journey. Be aware though, most of these only take limited numbers, many are ticketed events and four of them (Immersive Coffee Journey, Ultimate Flavour Challenge, Coffee Meets Whiskey and Home Barista Workshops) are already sold out. There are limited numbers of tickets left for The Tasting Room while the Coffee & Food Pairing (a full three-course meal hosted by Grind) still has good availability. There are also two free events, Union Hand-roasted’s ever-popular roasting demonstrations and Latte Art Live, which I suspect will be over-run with people!
Aside from coffee, there’s also a Tea Lover’s Masterclass (again a ticketed event), while downstairs you’ll find the Milk & Sugar fashion and lifestyle zone, a welcome change of pace from the festival’s main halls. There’s also a mobile charging zone and a bar, which I’m sure will prove popular. Of course, you can’t live on coffee alone, so there’ll be plenty of street food, which last year was provided by an expanded White Label Kitchen, which had its own seating area, a major improvement on previous years.
After all that, perhaps the most important question is, when to attend? Thursday and Friday, the industry days, are probably best avoided, unless you’re in the trade, although you do get a full day for the price of one three-hour session. The first consumer-session is Friday evening (four o’clock until ten o’clock), which has the bonus of the launch party afterwards (eight until ten) and is probably the best value of all consumer sessions. On Saturday and Sunday, the days are split into three 3-hour sessions: Brunch, Lunch and Teatime. Since your ticket covers you for just one session, you need to choose carefully. It’s also worth noting that 50% of the ticket price goes to the charity, Project Waterfall.
Alternatively, there’s always a VIP ticket. These give you access to the whole day (or both Industry Days) as well as letting you jump the queues (which can be quite long), gain access to the VIP suite and get a free cocktail and a copy of the 2017 London Coffee Guide.
My final two tips. First, take plenty of water along! It’s very easy to get dehydrated and it can be very hot and humid in the Old Truman Brewery and, while coffee is easy to come by, water is a bit scarcer! Second, be aware that there’s no cloakroom, so unless you want to be lugging your backpack around all day (or unless you know a friendly stall-holder to leave it with), don’t bring it with you!
|15 HANBURY STREET • THE OLD TRUMAN BREWERY • LONDON • E1 6QR|
|Thursday||10:00 – 17:00 (Industry only)|
|Friday||10:00 – 17:00 (Industry only)|
|16:00 – 22:00 (Evening Session)|
|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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