Welcome to Part II of my round up of this year’s Manchester Coffee Festival. In Part I, I took a look at the venue itself, and also reported on my favourite coffee competition, the UK Cup Tasters’ Championship, won for a second year running by Freda Yuan from Caravan. This time I’m focussing on the coffee, looking at the various roasters who were there in force this year. I’ll finish things off next week in Part III with a roundup of everything else!
In previous years, I’ve tried to get to visit roasters who are new to me, but this year, most of the names were familiar. However, there were still a few I’d not heard of, and, as is always the case, I still failed to get to see everyone. Quite a few roasters made guest appearances at various stands, including Neighbourhood Coffee, North Star and Ozone, none of whom I managed to get around to seeing!
Despite this, I did manage to visit many excellent roasters, tried lots of great coffee, both filter and espresso, which included the coffee that won the World Barista Championships this year, and, yes, I did make some new friends along the way.
You can find out more after the gallery.
As is traditional, I started my Manchester Coffee Festival with a visit to Carvetii, one of my favourite roasters. What normally happens when I visit Carvetii is that Gareth and I get talking, leaving Angharad to do all the work… This time, the roles were reversed, so I chatted with Angharad while Gareth got to make the coffee. I’d seen them just two weeks before, when I’d visited the roastery in Cumbria, although since then I’d been to Chicago and back, so it felt like it had been a lot longer!
At the roastery, we’d mostly focused on filter coffee and on Carvetii’s two Ethiopian coffees, one washed and one naturally processed, which I was still enjoying at home. However, at the Manchester Coffee Festival, the focus was on espresso, with Carvetii showcasing its seasonal blend, as well as the latest addition to its stable, a single-origin guest espresso. This was the La Providencia, from Huehuetenango in Guatemala, and I tried it as a flat white in my Therma Cup.
Most roasters I know have a house-blend, to which they add a guest or two to make things more interesting. A classic example of this is Square Mile, with its Red Brick blend, complemented by the more challenging Sweet Shop blend. In contrast, Carvetii has gone the other way. The single-origin guest (which may be a blend in future) is specifically designed not to be challenging, aimed at Carvetii’s home market in Cumbria where some coffee shops struggle with the more complex notes of Carvetii’s (in my opinion) excellent seasonal blend. I must say that Carvetii has it spot on with the La Providencia which in milk was sweet and very smooth, the perfect start to my festival.
Keeping it in the northwest, my next stop was Atkinsons Coffee Roasters. I really like Atkinsons and have even forgiven the guys for retiring the old Faema E61 lever machine that used to do the festival rounds. However, I’ve never visited any of Atkinsons’ coffee shops, although it’s not without trying, I can tell you.
Two weeks before, on my way up to Cumbria to see Carvetii, I’d planned to call into Lancaster to visit Atkinsons, timing my arrival for three o’clock, giving me plenty of time for some coffee before closing time. I would then stay overnight (in a hotel, not the coffee shop) and head on to Cumbria the following morning. However, my increasingly unreliable Dell laptop had other ideas and by three o’clock, I was still in Guildford, trying to fix the damn thing. After a very frustrating day, I finally arrived in Lancaster at 1 am, by which time both Atkinsons coffee shops had (perhaps reasonably) closed for the day…
Sadly I didn’t have time to call in the following morning, but never fear, because at the festival, I learnt that Atkinsons had opened a new coffee shop earlier that week right there in Manchester! Awesome! It’s in a new (re)development of a Victorian market building in the Northern Quarter called Mackie Mayor. I was staying on in Manchester the Monday after the festival, so finally, I would get to visit. Except what none of us realised was that the whole Mackie Mayor site is closed on Mondays… Sometimes I think I’m cursed…
Back at the festival with Atkinsons, and I got to try another single-origin espresso, this time one from Honduras, an origin which I’m increasingly seeing (and which there will be more on in Part III). This was from the Dayana farm and is a new variety, Parainema, and a new process, called Macerated Natural, where the coffee cherries are stored in sealed containers for 48 hours straight after picking to allow for anaerobic fermentation, before going on to be dried on raised beds.
I started off with an espresso in my Kaffeeform cup, a really fruity shot which I thoroughly enjoyed. I then tried it in milk, where it was just as good, the sweetness of the coffee going really well with the sweetness of the milk. All round, it was an excellent introduction to both the variety and the processing method!
You can see who else I met after the gallery.
Keeping with a northern theme, I called in to see old friends, Steampunk Coffee from North Berwick. Steampunk had three filter coffees on offer at the festival, two washed (a Colombian and a Nicaraguan) and one natural, a Kayon Mountain from Guji, Ethiopia. I tried all three, but the Kayon Mountain really stood out, a super fruity cup, reminding me of the natural Ethiopian I’d had at Carvetii two weeks before.
I still don’t pay enough attention to processing methods when I’m drinking coffee, but I am beginning to realise that some of my favourites are naturally processed, although I find them much trickier to get right. For example, although I really enjoyed Carvetii’s natural Ethiopian in the roastery, at home, I’m struggling to get the fruitiness out of the coffee. The washed version, meanwhile, is going really well through my Aeropress. In other words, I’m finding washed coffees much harder to mess up!
Returning to Steampunk, I had a chance to catch up with the owner, Catherine, who I’d not seen since I visited the roastery almost three years earlier. One of the neat things she was doing is, instead of selling large packs of coffee (250g) at the festival, promoting what she calls travel packs, ideal for the busy coffee blogger who is looking to come away with a variety of coffees to try. Naturally enough, I bagged a bag of the Kayon Mountain, which I’m waiting (with some trepidation given my trials with the Carvetii natural) to try as a pour-over at home.
My final call of the day was to Hundred House Coffee, a new name to me and a relatively new roaster, based in rural Shropshire, but with loads of industry experience. The name is interesting, derived from a Hundred, an administrative area which was part of an old English shire (we’re going back as far as pre-Norman times here), while the Hundred House would be the main house in the locality, often a communal meeting point. Indeed, if you google “Hundred House”, you will be inundated with English country pubs and hotels, which is exactly what Matt and Annabelle, who set up Hundred House, were trying to evoke: a sense of community.
Coming back to the coffee, Hundred House roasts a small selection of mostly Central American and East African coffees, with the mainstay being a house blend called Bon Bon, which is backed up by a selection of single-origins and a decaf from Colombia. I’ve got a bag of the decaf and a couple of the single-origins to try at home, but it’s the Bon Bon that caught my attention. Described as “sweet and jammy” on the packaging, it’s the sort of description that would normally have me running for the hills.
However, I’ve been trying it at home through my cafetiere and through my Sage Barista Express where it has really stood out. As an espresso, I dialled it in almost immediately and was really enjoying it, but there was something about it that made me want to try it in milk, so I did and it was awesome! There’s something in the jammy sweetness of the coffee that is accentuated by the milk. It’s so good that I’ve put the rest of it aside (I’ve got enough left for two shots) and am only going to use it for flat whites!
That was it for the first day of the festival, but you can see who I met on Sunday after the gallery.
I started off my second day at the festival with a visit to Allpress. Last year, Allpress brought along the wonderful caravan, Florence, dispensing espresso from a hatch in the side. This year, sadly, Florence was missing, but as the team from Allpress explained, the problem with Florence was that she cut down on interaction, since the baristas were inside, making coffee, while the customers were outside, waiting.
This year, Allpress had gone back to a more open stand design to promote communication and that made a lot of sense. Florence felt like a coffee stand at an open-air festival where you’d go to buy coffee, not somewhere you’d go to chat. Since the whole point of the Manchester Coffee Festival is to talk with people rather than serve them coffee, I think Allpress did the right thing. Although I still miss Florence.
Instead, Allpress built on a successful feature of the London Coffee Festival and got people to make their own coffee. Naturally, I had to have a go and pulled (if I say so myself) a rather nice shot of the Redchurch blend, topped off with some decently-steamed milk. I even got some half-decent latte art (well, an improvement on my standard blob). It was an excellent start to my day!
Next I called in to see Yallah Coffee, who’d come up all the way from Cornwall. Roasting on a restored 1950s 3kg Otto Swadlo roaster (similar to the one in Amid Giants & Idols), Yallah produces a small range of coffee, mostly serving the Cornish market, although I did come across its coffee about 18 months ago in Iris & June and was very impressed.
Yallah roasts a house espresso blend and then four single-origins, two of which are marketed under its “Trust” label (think more middle of the road flavours) and two under its “Explore” label (think more crazy flavours) , a neat idea which I’ve only seen at one other roaster, Taylor Street Roasted (which has three ranges, “Classic”, “Delicate” and “Wild”). I tried an Ethiopian natural from the Explore range, a well-rounded, fruity coffee and packed with flavour, again confirming my preference for top-quality naturals.
Yallah, by the way, was one of four roasters on the VA Machinery stand. VA Machinery is the UK importer of Victoria Arduino espresso machines and grinders. The others were the aforementioned Taylor Street Roasted, Glasgow-based Thomson’s Coffee and Carvetii, who I popped back to see. Gareth and Angharad were back in Cumbria, but Mick was there and, as ever, Carvetii had the most important resource of any coffee festival, drinking water!
Talking of Cornwall, Origin was also out in force, using its stand to highlight various coffee shops from around the region. This gave me a chance to catch up with Simon from Epicure Bar & Kitchen, which I knew as the Coffee Kabin when I visited Huddersfield three years ago. It was great to find out what Simon’s been up to since that and to hear about the great strides he’s made with Epicure. Hopefully I’ll get back soon for a full re-write of the original post!
Origin was also showcasing a pair of Panama Geishas, one washed (Hacienda Esmeralda) and one honey-processed (Finca Nuguo #4). As befits such a rare coffee, Origin was only making a small amount (one Kalita wave filter of each) just three times a day, so you had to be on the spot to catch them. Comparing the two side-by-side, I could tell they were both excellent, but as is often the case with these rare coffees, you are paying for their scarcity as much as their quality.
With time running out, you can see how I got on during my last few hours at the festival after the gallery.
First stop was Climpson and Sons, who had made the journey all the way up from London, bringing news of a new range of coffees with some old names, plus a brand new blend. Those familiar with the Climpson range will know the names The Baron, Climpson Estate and The Fields, while the name Broadway, which has been given to the new Broadway Blend, is familiar as the home of the Climpson and Sons café on Broadway Market.
Having talked about Yallah and Taylor Street with their distinct ranges, I was perhaps doing Climpson and Sons a disservice, since the new range is broadly similar in concept. The Broadway Blend is the new seasonal espresso, the middle of the road crowd-pleaser. That’s joined by the The Baron, a classic espresso which is from the Daterra Estate in Brazil. Climpson Estate is now also a single-origin, and is marketed as the Signature Espresso, while The Fields, another single-origin, is tagged “the adventurous one”.
I’d have loved to have tried them all, but it was late and I was already close to overdose, so I settled for the Climpson Estate, a Sasaba from the Sidamo region in Ethiopia. A washed coffee, this was surprisingly chocolately and sweet, not what I was expecting at all.
Moving on, I caught up with Margate’s finest, Curve Coffee Roasters, who I first came across in Federation Coffee in Brixton at the start of this year, where I was wowed by the Stardust seasonal espresso blend. I had to turn down the offer of coffee, but came away with some excellent news: early next year, Curve will be opening its own coffee shop in Margate, so, time permitting, I will be making a trip to the seaside to say hello!
I should also mention the lovely folks at Union Hand-roasted who will feature in Part III with the ever-popular taste challenge (spoiler, I was terrible again). Somehow, despite being rather useless, I came away laden with coffee: the Brazilian Bobolink, which is going to grace my cafetiere and espresso machine in due course, and two El Salvadors, a honey-processed and a natural, which I am looking forward to comparing.
I briefly popped in to see Mani at the Ancoats Coffee stand, where the new packaging was being launched. Moving away from the traditional coffee-in-bags, Ancoats Coffee has gone for neat boxes which can be displayed end-on on shelves, which is rather obvious when you think about it, but clearly not something that anyone else has come up with! The problem with traditional bags is that they take up a lot of shelf space to display one bag, whereas the boxes can still present the information on the spine, but in a much more compact form. Even better, there’s more information on the lid, while inside, you’ll find a detailed information sheet, which can also be displayed separately. Finally, if you want even more information, there’s always the amazingly informative Ancoats Coffee website.
Perhaps best of all, the boxes will fit through your letter box, although that’s not a problem I had since I ended up coming away with a t-shirt, two boxes of my own and a tote bag to carry them in. I’m looking forward to the Peralta Honey decaf from Nicaragua, Ancoats Coffee having always roasted some excellent decaf, while the Warehouse City Blend is currently going down a storm in my cafetiere first thing in the morning.
I have, however, saved the best until last. This year, Has Bean had a stand at the festival and on that stand, off to one side, was Dale Harris, this year’s UK Barista Champion, serving his championship-winning coffee, an El Salvador Finca Las Brumas SL 28, a washed coffee. Dale, who I had a chance to catch up with this spring at the Made by Hand Coffee Pop-up, was taking the coffee to the World Barista Championships in Seoul, Korea, the following day. How could I turn down the chance to try what might become a world championship winning coffee?
Dale pulled me a shot as an espresso which (I’m not sure I’m allowed to say this) was a bit too far out there for my conservative palate, with a little bit too much acidity. However, Dale then added a splash of milk to make a piccolo and it was absolutely awesome, the sweetness of the milk taking the edge off the acidity. Best of all? Dale only went and won the World Barista Championships just a few days later! So I had indeed drunk a championship-winning coffee! Go Dale!
That’s it for Part II. Don’t forget to come back next week for the third and final instalment of my Manchester Coffee Festival round-up.
For some other perspectives on the festival, check out the following articles:
- Five Ounces’ look at the Festival, including North Star on the Oatly Stand
- Commodities Connoisseur’s round up of all the roasters
- Dog & Hat were also doing the rounds
- Best Coffee had a quick round up of the festival
- Climpson & Sons recounts its fourth appearance at the festival
- From even further afield, here’s Origin’s account of the festival
If you’ve written a review of the festival and would like to be featured, just drop me a line.
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