Today’s Saturday Supplement is the second half of my detailed report on the wonderful Cup North, Manchester’s two-day coffee festival. I’ve split my reporting into five main themes: Old Friends and New Roasters, which I covered last week, and Coffee Cuppings, Miscellaneous and Street Food, which I’m covering this week.
Coffee Cuppings, as the name suggests, is all about the two coffee cuppings I attended, while Miscellaneous covers an interesting mix, including a latte-art thrown down, tea (yes, I know…) and books. Finally, Street Food is a round-up of all the delicious food that was on offer at Cup North, organised by the wonderful Grub.
Each section has its own gallery and a short write-up which I present below, starting with Coffee Cuppings.
While I was at Cup North, I attended two cuppings. Generally speaking, I’m not very good at cuppings. First of all, I don’t have the slurping technique, although Henry, at DR Wakefield, gave me some good advice and I did notice some improvement after that! The second reason is that I don’t have a very discerning palate. It’s better than it was: when I started the Coffee Spot, my palate was notoriously binary; I either liked something or I didn’t and I really couldn’t tell you much more than that. However, even my palate showed some improvement over the weekend!
The first cupping I attended was on Saturday at DR Wakefield and as run by fellow coffee-blogger, Henry, of Lyndon’s Coffee’s fame. Since he started work in the industry last year, Henry’s output has slackened off, although he tells me that Lyndon’s Coffee is due a re-launch sometime soon.
DR Wakefield was cupping a number of coffees, including a Thai coffee and a decaf. However, what interested me was the last pair of cups on the table. One was a Kenyan PB Thunguri and the other was an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Grade 3. In the past, when people have told me that a particular coffee tastes of this, that or the other, I never, ever get it. However, in this instance, Henry said that the Kenyan tasted of Ribena, while the Yirgacheffe tasted of blueberries. Amazingly, I got both of them; particularly the Kenyan, which really did taste like Ribena. That Ribena is horrible, yukky stuff that no decent coffee in its right mind should taste of, is neither here nor there!
The following day, I took my newly-improved palate off to Square Mile, which was holding a cupping of the same coffee, but processed in three different ways (for the uninitiated, processing is the method by which you extract the (green) coffee bean from cherry). The coffee was a Kilimanjaro from El Salvador and the three processes were natural (cherries are dried with the beans still inside), pulped natural (cherries are removed, then the beans are dried) and washed (the cherries are removed and the beans fermented and washed in water).
I tried all three coffees and there was a noticeable difference in taste between all three, just going to show that the processing really does impact the flavour of the coffee. However, my newly-improved palate still has some way to go since I couldn’t tell which one was which!
As well as drinking a lot of coffee, I was also called upon to judge some coffee. Even with my newly-improved palate, I was a little anxious, until I learnt that I was required to judge a latte-art throw down. Now that I can do (judge, that is, not do latte-art)!
The competition was organised by Union Hand-roasted and you really need to have a look at the gallery to see the results. For my troubles, I was rewarded with a bag of Guatemalan Hunapu, which is currently going down a storm in my cafetiere first thing in the morning. I could get used to this judging lark you know!
Opposite the Union stand, tucked away right at the back, where it should be, was a tea stand. I know! At a coffee festival… What’s the world coming to? I thought I had managed to avoid it completely, but I was grassed up by my (so-called) friends at the Clifton Coffee Company, who only went and introduced me to the tea people, who turned out to be the Canton Tea Company, who are also based in Bristol. I suspect a conspiracy!
Talking to lovely people on the Canton Tea stand, I was struck by similarities between speciality tea and speciality coffee. Tea people are driven by very similar passions, with the same attention to detail and concern about origin and traceability. The only differences I can see between tea and coffee are that you don’t have to roast tea and that it tastes horrible.
On hearing that I didn’t like tea, Canton Tea persuaded me to try the Canton Karma blend, made with ginger, fennel seed, cardamom, rose, vanilla and liquorice root. And here’s the embarrassing thing: it tasted quite nice and, just like a good filter coffee, it evolves as it cools. It gets worse though. I was then given some tea bags to take home with me, which I’ve felt obliged to use. Last week I found myself buying a tea pot… I fear I may be doomed…
Next to Canton was Makers Dozen, a Manchester-based art collective promoting craft and design. Makers Dozen had done some really interesting things with extruded clay and old cups. Once again, this is one of those things where you really need to look at the gallery.
Finally, there was a whole stream of talks, almost all of which I managed to miss. For example, I managed to miss Piers Anthony talking about his book The Bitter Trade. I missed Anette Moldvaer talking about her book, Coffee Obsession. I missed Mat North from Full Court Press talking about his book as well. I even missed a whole series of Tamper Tantrum talks!
However, I did manage to catch, and meet, Robert Leigh, author of From Lime Street to Yirgacheffe, one of my favourite books on coffee. It was great to be able to put a face to the name and to catch up with news of Rob’s day job as a serial killer…
Finally, I ran into old friends Carvetii, who sent me some coffee in the post, and made some new friends in Rounton Coffee, from the other side of the Pennines. Although not exhibiting at Cup North, they’d thoughtfully brought some coffee with them and left a bag with me.
Last but not least, there was a whole host of street food in a big tent outside Cup North, organised by Grub. However, before I even got to the tent, I ran into the Grindsmith trike, which I had seen only that morning being peddled furiously away from the Grindsmith mother-ship. It seemed a little unfair to be at a coffee festival, only to be left outside in the cold, but on the other hand, the trike was doing great business! And it really wasn’t that cold. And it wasn’t raining. I had to wonder if I was actually in Manchester…
On the Saturday I tried Comida, which was serving montaditos (tasty things on bread) & croquetas (deep fried cheese in breadcrumbs). I had one vegetarian montadito (aubergine and peppers) and one salmon one, while fellow coffee-blogger, Kate (aka A Southern Belle In London) had steak! We both agreed they were excellent, as were the croquetas we had. On the second day, it was the turn of Filfil Falafel, serving, unsurprisingly, falafel, which came in pita bread. I had mine with all the trimmings and it was excellent.
And that’s that from Cup North for this year. The great news is that Cup North is back for another year, this time on the weekend of 7th/8th November in Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse. You can get your tickets here.
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