London Coffee Festival 2018: Preview

The 2018 London Coffee Festival LogoIt’s London Coffee Festival time again! Yes, that’s right, in just two weeks’ time, the London Coffee Festival will be in full swing, back again in the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane from Thursday, 12th April to Sunday, 15th 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.

There are industry days on Thursday/Friday, an extended consumer session on Friday evening (introduced last year) and three three-hour consumer sessions on Saturday/Sunday (Brunch, Lunch and Teatime). In past years, the Industry Days used to be free, but since last year, the London Coffee Festival has started to charge for them, with day tickets available, along with a combined two-day ticket.

Talking of tickets, my usual advice applies: get your ticket now. For starters, you get a significant discount on the on-the-door price (at least £6). What’s more, tickets are already selling fast! Leave it to the day of the festival and it could easily be sold out. You can buy tickets for individual sessions, or you can buy VIP tickets covering the whole day on Saturday/Sunday.

Note: If you want to buy my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, I will have plenty of copies with me. I’ll also happily sign copies that you have bought elsewhere. Currently I’m planning on attending on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

With that out of the way, let’s get on with the preview of the London Coffee Festival 2018, which you’ll find after the gallery, which is a collection of photos from last year’s festival.

  • The front entrance of the London Coffee Festival, in between sessions (ie no queues!).
  • Alternatively, if you have a VIP pass, you get to come in around the back...
  • ... which wil lead you into the (relatively) relaxed VIP lounge.
  • The main zone donwstairs, where you'll end up if you come in the front door.
  • The roasting & cupping area, known as the Factory, is back for another year.
  • The Tasting Room is one of the additions from last year which is back again this year.
  • Last year, the Roasters Village was split in two. This is Roasters Village South...
  • ... while this is Roasters Village North. The Roasters Village is back again this year.
  • You'll see a lot of these stairs, which are the only link between the ground and first floors.
  • Upstairs is the main hall, the Hyde Park zone, where'll you find the likes of Cakesmiths.
  • It's also home of the True Artisan Cafe, focal point of the Shoreditch zone.
  • The Shoreditch Zone was as packed as ever: here, the Roasting Party's ever-popular stand.
  • Elsewhere, the narrow corridors of the Innovation Zone are reminders of festivals past.
  • Right at the back is the White Label Kitchen, providing from some excellent street food.
  • It has its own (packed) seating area.
  • Finally, I'll leave you with a few favourites from last year. First, my favourite filter, from Outpost.
  • Next, my favourite espresso: the same coffee, again by Outpost, roasted for espresso.
  • My favourite flat white was a single-origin Kenyan from Frank & Earnest.
  • My favourite gadget: the O2 automatic milk frother...
  • ... or was it the Ubermilk, an automated milk steamer? Or was it both?
  • Favourite cup, the hand-blown glass cup from Sol.
  • And finally, for the second year running, my favourite food: Arancini Bros' veggie burger.
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I always start off by saying this: the best source of information is the London Coffee Festival website. However, I will say that compared to previous years, there’s not as much information there, which makes planning more difficult. I really miss the handy floorplan that was produced in previous years, with all the various Festival Zones marked on it, along with the timetable of who is on at the True Artisan Café. That said, you can now read the Festival Magazine on-line which is packed with interesting features.

There’s also a very handy schedule, which shows all the events/workshops in each session. What’s more, more events have been added to the schedule, including the participants at the True Artisan Cafe. Even better, you can filter by type, which is really helpful when there are multiple events per timeslot. In terms of planning my visit, I think this is the most useful tool. It also shows which events have spaces left: The Lab features, which are mostly talks) are free, but everything else has to be booked at £5/£6 per slot and they all have limited places. You need to look for “Book” on the right-hand side; if it just says “Info” then it’s sold out (and plenty of them are, even with two weeks to go).

These features have provided some of my personal highlights in previous years, include the La Cimbali Sensory Sessions, which pretty much top my list each year. This year there’s the usual mix, including La Marzocco Kitchen (home barista workshops, all of which are booked already), The Tasting Room and the School of Chocolate. There are also some free events, including Union Hand-roasted’s ever-popular roasting demonstrations and Taste Challenge, which I always do very poorly at! The full range of what’s on can be found here.

For those that enjoy them, this year’s London Coffee Festival is home to three different competitions. First there’s the Coffee Masters, a series of head-to-head barista challenges where top baristas compete directly against each other to progress to the next round. Next comes the UK Barista Championship, won last year by Dale Harris of Has Bean, who went on to win the World Barista Championship in Seoul. Finally, there’s the Brewers Cup, which tests the baristas’ skills with filter coffee.

The London Coffee Festival is always very, very crowded, although in the last couple of years, this has been partly alleviated by the addition of some new sections. This year is no different, with the organisers adding a new top floor, which will house the Innovation Zone (for those that remember, it was in that narrow maze of crowded corridors in the Shoreditch Zone). However, you can still find all your old favourites, including the True Artisan Café, a pop-up coffee shop. Each session it features three of the country’s top cafés, each serving their own signature drink. You can find out who is on in each session using the handy schedule. Finally, there’s the Roasters Village, back for a third year and the White Label Kitchen, with four of London’s leading street food vendors, complete with its own seating area.

As usual, I suspect that I will struggle to visit everyone I want to see, but I’m really looking forward to catching up with my favourite reusable cup, Therma Cup, and gluten-free cake-wizards, B-Tempted, both of whom are exhibiting for the first time. I’m also keen to see the new automated filter machine from Sage, the Precision Brewer, which is being launched at the festival. Automatic filter machines made a big splash at the London Coffee Festival a couple of years ago, and normally I wouldn’t be that excited by another one, but since Sage’s Barista Express revitalised my home espresso game, I’m keen to see it’s all about.

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. Personally, I’d avoid the Sunday Teatime session (16:00 – 19:00) since most of the vendors will be shutting up shop come the last hour or so.

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 2018 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!

For an alternative take on the festival, check out the Best Coffee App’s festival preview.

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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6 thoughts on “London Coffee Festival 2018: Preview

  1. Pingback: The Philosophy of Coffee is Out! | Brian's Coffee Spot

  2. Also top tip! They have opened a roof terrace/outdoor space in the venue to get fresh air while your inside which should help with the stuffiness! 🙂

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