Birmingham Coffee Festival 2019 Preview

The Birmingham Coffee Festival logoThis time last year, I was preparing to head for the Birmingham Coffee Festival, at that point an unknown quantity to me. It had had its first outing in 2017, joining the likes of the London Coffee Festival (still by far the biggest), Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and The Coffee House Project (in Bristol).  I missed the Birmingham Coffee Festival’s inaugural year, but alerted by my friends at Cakesmiths, I was on the lookout in the 2018.

Since I was actually in the country for the event (the usual reason I miss coffee festivals is because I’m abroad: it’s why, for example, I’ve never been to the Edinburgh or Bristol festivals and why I missed Glasgow this year), I decided to attend. Not sure what to expect, I initially only booked for the one day, but I really enjoyed myself, finding more than enough to keep me occupied, so returned the following day.

Next weekend, the festival is back for its third year in the Custard Factory in Digbeth, running from Friday to Sunday. Once again, I’m in the country, so I’ll be heading up to Birmingham on Friday for the festival (although I won’t be there on Sunday).

So, what can you expect?

Find out after the gallery, which is an overview of the venue from last year.

  • The Custard Factory, in Digbeth, home of the Birmingham Coffee Festival for a third year.
  • It's a big place, the Custard Factory, so you need to know where you're going.
  • Fortunately, last year there were plenty of signs that you've come to the right place.
  • Turn left at the first T-junction and aim for the large, internal courtyard...
  • ... and there it is, on the far side, on the left: the Birmingham Coffee Festival.
  • You enter via a large, outdoor Street Food market...
  • ... and head in through the door (seen from the inside) where you'll find the ticket desk.
  • This time last year, in a prime spot by the ticket desk were locals, Quarter Horse Coffee.
  • The rest of the festival, in its bright and airy hall, stretches off to the left.
  • The previous picture doesn't quite give the sense of scale of the roof. It's huge!
  • The glass panels cast pretty shadows on the festival floor.
  • With all the glass, when the sun came out last year, it got really warm, so be prepared!
  • There's a small section of the festival in the space behind the ticket desk...
  • ... although this year there may be more space beyond the walls at the back. We shall see.
  • Last year, the main space was arranged around three main corridors. Here's the first.
  • It ran along the front wall of the main space.
  • A second corridor ran left-to-right down the centre of the main space.
  • The view from the other end of the corridor, looking back towards the area by the door.
  • Another broad corridor ran front-to-back along the left-hand side of the main space.
  • Along with the corridors, a third area was tucked away at the back...
  • ... which formed its own busy little cul-de-sac.
  • Off to the left, the third and final corridor ran along the back wall...
  • ... and housed the remaining stands.
  • There was plenty of seating, including some outside, plus this cluster near the entrance...
  • ... and these long tables at the far left-hand end.
  • I took most of my photos at the start/end of the day. This is how it was when in full swing!
  • Finally, there was a live stage in the corner at the front.
  • My round-up of last year's festival space ends on a high note with BWT providing multiple (and much-needed) water stations throughout the space.
Photo Carousel by v4.6

The first thing to say is that Birmingham Coffee Festival is ridiculously good value for money, with a ticket for any of the three days costing just £9.12 in advance (which includes a £1.12 booking fee) or £10 on the door for six hours of coffee-based fun (eight hours on Saturday!). You even get a tote bag thrown in for free. At that price, it would be a shame not to go.

Last year’s event was an interesting mix of local and national, with a strong showing from Birmingham coffee shops, roasters and suppliers, mixed in with national roasters and brands, although compared to both the Manchester and Glasgow festivals, the balance was more in favour of local names. This includes Fracino, the UK’s only espresso machine manufacturer.

If you’ve been to a coffee festival before, then Birmingham Coffee Festival will hold no great surprises. There are fewer events than some other festivals I’ve been too, but that suits me since I rarely attend them, being too busy chatting away at the various stands. These were predominately either coffee shops or roasters, with oodles of coffee to try and, judging by this year’s list of exhibitors, that looks set to continue.

Compared to other festivals I attend, there’s less emphasis on machines/equipment, making it much more consumer-focused, something that looks to be continuing this year. It’s also the best-catered coffee festival I’ve been to, with a large, outside street food area, plus several cake/sweet thing suppliers in the main hall, including old friends of the Coffee Spot, Cakesmiths.

For me, the venue plays a big part in my enjoyment of a festival. In that respect, Birmingham Coffee Festival has found a delightful home off the inner courtyard of the sprawling Custard Factory. Occupying a single-storey, roughly square building, with white-washed walls, the highlight is definitely (pun intended) the soaring saw-shaped wood and glass roof which gave the festival an immense sense of space and light.

Last year, the festival was well laid out, everything arranged around long, broad corridors with plenty of space between the stands. Even at its busiest, it was easy to move around and it never felt cramped. There was also ample seating, both inside and out, plus water was freely available, provided by BWT. Last year it did get a bit hot under the glass roof, but there are rumours that there will be air conditioning this year, plus there might be even more space available!

Birmingham Coffee Festival supports local street musicians, who play on a live stage in the main room, with recorded music playing between the acts. I’ve nothing against music, but in this case, it was also broadcast by speakers throughout the festival area, so there really was no escape from it, even outside. My only real complaint from last year was the volume, which was loud enough on many occasions to drown out my conversations. This, to me, is entirely counterproductive, since I see the main point of any coffee festival being to promote dialogue between the customers and exhibitors.

However, I don’t want to end on a negative note, particularly since I had such a good time and am really looking forward to this year’s festival. So, don’t forget to book your tickets and, with luck, I will see some of you there!

I’ve just learnt that the festival will have a new entrance this year, direct from Floodgate Street, so you won’t have to go into the Custard Factory itself to get into the festival.

If you want to see what I actually made of the festival, then check out my festival round-up, the first of my detailed write-ups from this year’s festival.

Monday Roaster N/A
Tuesday Seating N/A
Wednesday Food N/A
Thursday Service N/A
Friday 12:00 – 18:00 Cards N/A
Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 Wifi N/A
Sunday 10:00 – 16:00 Power N/A
Chain N/A Visits 7th, 8th, 9th June 2019

Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Birmingham for more great Coffee Spots.

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  1. Pingback: Birmingham Coffee Festival 2018 | Brian's Coffee Spot

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