It’s been a bumper year for Coffee Festivals and it keeps on getting better. As well as the annual fixture that is the London Coffee Festival, there was the first ever Amsterdam Coffee Festival (which I would have gone to, had it not been so soon after the London Coffee Festival!), both of which graced us with their presence back in April. Not to be outdone, 2014 also saw the first Dublin Coffee and Tea Festival (which was September and which, alas, I also couldn’t attend), while end of November and start of December will see the inaugural Scottish Coffee Festival followed by the inaugural Glasgow Coffee Festival, both to be held in Glasgow.
Then, of course, there’s Cup North, which comes to Manchester on the first weekend in November. It’s a self-described two-day northern coffee party which promises to be, well, a two-day coffee party. In the north. Straight-talking folk, these northerners. With a guest/sponsor/exhibitor list to make even the hardiest coffee fan’s eyes water, it really is a must-attend event. I’ll be there for both the Saturday and Sunday, so there’s no chance of avoiding me!
You can read more about Cup North after the gallery.
Cup North started life as a glimmer in the eyes of barista-trainer Hannah Davies and Manchester (via Portugal) coffee-fanatic Ricardo Gândara. Ricardo has the honour, by the way, of being the first person to walk up to me in a coffee shop say “you must be Brian”. Actually, this is a complete fiction, but makes a far better story than what actually happened…
[In the interests of factual correctness, I was in Manchester’s wonderful North Tea Power when, unknown to me, Ricardo came in and told Wayne and Jane that he recognised me. They then told me that I had a fan in the house, so it was actually me who went to Ricardo and said “you must be Ricardo”. At least, I think I said something like that. It was a long time ago…]
Anyway, regardless of the precise details, Ricardo is a fine fellow and when I heard he was helping Hannah to organise a coffee festival in Manchester, I was intrigued. Cup North was inspired by the Chorlton Coffee Festival, which took place in June last year and is where Hannah and Ricardo met. Whereas that was more of a community event, set in and around the cafés of Chorlton and south Manchester (I sadly couldn’t make that one either), Cup North is more like the London Coffee Festival in concept.
Things moved quickly and, before long, Cup North was the talk of the town (well, twitter) with a successful Kickstarter to raise funds to bring Tamper Tantrum (described as the TED talks of coffee) to Cup North. The coffee industry has also got behind the festival, and there’ll be plenty of big names in attendance. The likes of local legends, Huddersfield’s Grumpy Mule, Bristol’s Extract and Lancaster’s J. Atkinson & Co, will be holding coffee cuppings, while London coffee royalty, Square Mile, will be roasting on-site.
Manchester has its own growing micro-roasting scene and, not to be outdone, four local roasters, Passion Fruit, Coffee Circle, Ancoats Coffee and ManCoCo, have combined to produce a limited-edition Cup North blend. They are being joined by roasters from all over the country, from small start-ups such as Leeds’ North Star to well-established names from as far afield as Glasgow’s Dear Green Coffee, Brighton’s Small Batch, Bristol’s Clifton Coffee Company and Origin, who are coming all the way from Cornwall.
There is also a literary angle to the festival, with writers such as Piers Alexander, author of historical novel The Bitter Trade, Robert Leigh, who wrote the excellent From Lime Street to Yirgacheffe, and Anette Moldvaer, author of Coffee Obsession, on hand to talk about their books.
It’s not all coffee though. As well as tea merchants, chocolate suppliers (such as Kokoa Collection) and brewers, GRUB, a new organisation headed up by experience street-food trader Jason Bailey, will be hosting Cup North’s food and bar area. GRUB aims to bring grassroots and innovative street-food to Manchester, whilst supporting and promoting new traders. Having enjoyed the London Coffee Festival’s Street Food Market, I’m keen to see what GRUB and Cup North have to offer.
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