It’s that time of year again! Comes around quickly, doesn’t it? Yes, I’m talking about the London Coffee Festival, and, if it seems like it can’t be a year since the last one, then that’s probably because it isn’t. In fact, it’s been just over 11 months. Like Easter (actually, probably because of Easter), the London Coffee Festival is a moveable feast, this year taking place from Thursday, 7th April to Sunday, 10th April. Once again gracing the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, this will be my fourth consecutive festival.
The London Coffee Festival is the launch event of UK Coffee Week and is the UK’s leading coffee festival. If you’ve been before, it should all be very familiar, with industry days on Thursday and Friday and three-hour consumer sessions on Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. If you haven’t been, take a look at my round up of last year’s festival.
My first piece of advice is to get your ticket now. For starters, you get a significant discount on the on-the-door price. Plus, if previous years are anything to go by, there won’t be many/any tickets on the door since the festival has a tendency to sell out.
April 8th: Having spent the last two days at the industry days of the Coffee Festival, I can confirm that this year’s event is even bigger and better than last year’s. I’ve updated my preview with what I’ve learnt!
With that out of the way, I present my preview of the London Coffee Festival 2016, which you can read after the gallery.
As ever, the best source of information is the London Coffee Festival website, although I found it harder than in previous years to actually find out what’s going on. There’s also a handy newspaper, copies of which can be found for free in many of London’s top coffee shops. Unlike previous years, there’s no option to download a copy, although you can read the first half of it on the Festival website. There’s also a host of other interesting articles on the website.
This year there’s more than ever going on, so I’m going to present a few of my favourites and some of the new (or returning events), starting with a mainstay of the festival, the True Artisan Café. This is a pop-up coffee shop, which, each session, features three of the country’s top cafés. 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. In previous years the running order has been posted on the festival website, but at the time of writing, all I could find was the list of DJs who will be performing each day!
As usual, Union Hand-roasted will be there throughout the festival, providing live roasting demonstrations like the one I attended last year. Joining them will be The Roaster Village, situated next to the True Artisan Café. This will feature well-known names such as Butterworth & Son and Extract Coffee Roasters as well as newcomers such as Modern Standard Coffee and Cast Iron Coffee Roasters.
There will also be an extensive lab programme throughout the weekend. These are short, interactive workshops, grouped into various curated sessions. On Thursday, it’s the turn of La Marzocco, while on Friday, the Artisan Coffee School takes over. On Saturday and Sunday, the sessions are more consumer-orientated. Caffeine Magazine takes the helm on Saturday morning (I’ll be talking about blogging at 12.45, but don’t let that put you off!) and on Saturday afternoon it’s the turn of Taylor Street Baristas. On Sunday, a wide variety of topics get covered! Check out the Festival website for the full schedule (so you know when to avoid me!).
If you were intrigued by the idea of speciality coffee in capsules and want to see what all the fuss is about yourself, Colonna Coffee will be launching its range of Nespresso-compatible special coffee capsules at the Festival.
After an absence of a year, the UK Barista Championships make a welcome return to the London Coffee Festival. There’s the Brewer’s Cup on Thursday and Friday while the UKBCs themselves are back on Saturday and Sunday. And if that wasn’t enough competitions, the Coffee Masters, which made its debut last year, is also back!
Another newcomer from last year, the White Label Kitchen, will be back. This replaced the very popular Street Food Market and was a much smaller affair, with no seating. However, as I can attest from personal experience last year, the food on offer is top-notch and the good news is that this year the seating’s back (and the food’s as good as ever). Even better, the White Label Kitchen has been moved to its own dedicated area so there’s plenty of room for the inevitable queues as everyone tries to grab a bite to eat.
Also back for another year is the Milk & Sugar fashion and lifestyle zone, a welcome change of pace from the sometimes manic main halls. If you can’t face the queues upstairs, Gather & Gather have a pop-up food stall (reminiscent of the St Ali offering in 2014). There’s also plenty of seating down here.
In previous years, downstairs has been the sole preserve of Milk & Sugar, but this year the festival has added a whole new area, which is where you’ll find lots of new and exciting toys, including several new espresso machines and automated pour-over brewers. There’s also more live-roasting going on down here! This extra space has led to the festival feeling a lot less crowded.
There’s a lot more going on, including just wandering around the vast number of stalls full of the latest coffee, coffee gadgets, and various coffee-related kit (which is how I spend most of my time). For a full run-down of the main events, check out the What’s On section of the Festival website.
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. The first consumer-session is Friday evening (five o’clock until eight o’clock), which has the bonus of the launch party afterwards (eight until ten). 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.
However, if that seems too limiting, then you could always go for a VIP ticket. These give you access to the whole day (Friday, including the launch party, Saturday or Sunday) as well as letting you into the VIP suite and the House of Coffee & Co. This includes the Scandinavian Embassy pop-up restaurant, a live roasting area and a cocktail bar!
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, although in fairness, last year was nowhere near as bad as previous years. 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!
If you want to find out what went on during the 2016 London Coffee Festival, check out my round-up, which has links to all the other articles I wrote on the 2016 Festival.
|15 HANBURY STREET • THE OLD TRUMAN BREWERY • LONDON • E1 6QR|
|Thursday||10:00 – 17:00 (Industry only)|
|Friday||10:00 – 17:00 (Industry only)|
|17:00 – 20:00 (Evening Session)|
|20:00 – 22:00 (Launch Party)|
|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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