Out of the Box, Tonbridge

A flat white, made with the The Roasting Party's Elixir 22 blend and served in my Huskee Cup at Out of the Box in Tonbridge.This time last week I headed off to Tonbridge, to attend La Marzocco’s Out of the Box event. I’ve been to a few of these before, but I’ve very much seen them as industry events, a party thrown by coffee people (at La Marzocco) for coffee people, the attendees being baristas, roasters, the odd coffee blogger and occasional coffee enthusiasts not in the industry. As such, it never occurred to me to write about them. Last Saturday, all that changed.

Out of the Box was held in Tonbridge Castle, a move which had plenty of us scratching our heads ahead of time (previous ones have always been indoors) and not knowing what to expect (although if I’d read the description, I might have known better!). What’s more, although not widely advertised beyond the industry, it was open to the public, so drew a very different crowd.

The result was a surprising and wonderful mini-coffee festival, including a new barista competition, Crush the Rush. Indeed, if you’ve never been to a coffee festival and were wondering what one was like, you could do worse than go to the next Out of the Box; it’s free and will give you a good feel for one. But what was it like?

You can find out after the gallery.

  • The massive southern curtain wall of Tonbridge Castle, seen from across the Medway.
  • The entrance, meanwhile, is via this even more impressive gatehouse on the northern side.
  • And here it is, Out of the Box, Summer 2019! What a backdrop for a coffee event!
  • This is the view looking the other way, across the grass from the left of the gatehouse...
  • ... which is where we'll start our tour.
  • The northern edge of the castle was home to one half of the Roasters Village.
  • Meanwhile, at the eastern end, you could find the food stalls and some seating.
  • I was particularly taken with this tree!
  • Moving around, but still at the eastern end, there's beer, wine and a distillery!
  • The southern side was home to the second part of the Roasters Village...
  • ... before we get to the stage at the western end. There was a DJ there...
  • ... and three live bands. I caught these guys, Hardwicke Circus, all the way from Carlisle!
  • And here we are, back at the beginning.
  • Just a quick mention of one of the sponsors, the excellent Northiam Dairy...
  • ... which was on hand to provide ice cream throughout the day!
  • And finally, thanks to BWT for the numerous water stations!
The massive southern curtain wall of Tonbridge Castle, seen from across the Medway.1 The entrance, meanwhile, is via this even more impressive gatehouse on the northern side.2 And here it is, Out of the Box, Summer 2019! What a backdrop for a coffee event!3 This is the view looking the other way, across the grass from the left of the gatehouse...4 ... which is where we'll start our tour.5 The northern edge of the castle was home to one half of the Roasters Village.6 Meanwhile, at the eastern end, you could find the food stalls and some seating.7 I was particularly taken with this tree!8 Moving around, but still at the eastern end, there's beer, wine and a distillery!9 The southern side was home to the second part of the Roasters Village...10 ... before we get to the stage at the western end. There was a DJ there...11 ... and three live bands. I caught these guys, Hardwicke Circus, all the way from Carlisle!12 And here we are, back at the beginning.13 Just a quick mention of one of the sponsors, the excellent Northiam Dairy...14 ... which was on hand to provide ice cream throughout the day!15 And finally, thanks to BWT for the numerous water stations!16
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Although I’ve said Out of the Box was like a coffee festival, it was also much more party-like than your average coffee festival and more family-friendly. And while I said I went not knowing what to expect, that’s largely my own fault for not reading the description on the La Marzocco website, which summed it up pretty accurately. That will teach me to pay more attention in the future!

So, what was there? Well, let’s start with the venue, Tonbridge Castle, which reached its peak in the 13th century, when it had a massive gatehouse, full curtain wall with corner towers, a moat and a stone keep on top of a large motte. These days it’s a ruin: the keep, sadly, has gone, along with much of the walls and all of the towers. However, the motte (a large, mound of earth) is still there, as is the magnificent gatehouse through which you entered, surely the best entrance to any coffee event ever!

This leads to the castle grounds, a large, oval expanse of grass inside the line of the old walls. During Out of the Box, it was was ringed on three sides by small pavilions, with a large stage on the fourth (west) side, just in front of the motte. The pavilions to the north and south were home to the Roasters Village, while the ones to the east held the food stalls, along with a beer tent, a wine tent and a distiller’s tent! I’d also like to thank BWT for supplying numerous water stations, essential on a hot, sunny day!

There was even ice cream from Out of the Box sponsors, Northiam Dairy, who supplied all the milk for the day. I first came across Northiam (and its excellent ice cream) at last year’s London Coffee Festival. Northiam supplies (and processes) milk from the dairy herd on its farm in East Sussex, along with milk from several local farms, and is one of the number of dairies providing a more direct trade model for coffee shops who care as much about their milk as their coffee.

Although the event was ticketed (you could register for free ahead of time online) people were welcome to wander in during the day and I’m sure that’s what quite a few of the attendees did, drawn by the music, which could be heard across the town. Indeed, you could have spent the whole day at Out of the Box sitting on the grass, having a picnic, playing some of the games (I saw a coconut shy and a virtual reality driving game) and watching the live bands on the stage without once having anything to do with coffee!

However, I was there for the coffee. You can see what I found after the gallery.

  • The gatehouse at Tonbridge Castle, the magnificent backdrop for Out of the Box.
  • The Roasters Village was, for me, the main attraction, a chance to catch up with folks.
  • And there were lots of them! Starting at the gatehouse, here's Hundred House & Curve...
  • ... followed by Dark Arts and White Star.
  • Next, old friends Allpress and The Roasting Party...
  • ... along with more old friends, Coaltown and Butterworth and Son.
  • Finally, on the northern side, Origin and Small Batch, both very much southern roasters!
  • The Roasters Village continued on the southern side...
  • ... with old friends Cast Iron Roasters and Caravan...
  • ... along with northern roasters, Neighbourhood and Grumpy Mule.
  • Next, Climpson and Sons, plus Outpost, all the way from Nottingham...
  • ... and finally, Quarterhorse and Extract, from Birmingham and Bristol respectively.
  • There was more, though, with the centre of the castle being given over to the sponsors...
  • ... including the likes of Modbar, the modular espresso and filter system...
  • ... and Push, makers of precision tampers.
  • As it was, I only had time for two coffees, the first coming from Curve...
  • ... where I had a shot of the El Rancho, a washed Guatemalan, in my Kaffeeform cup.
  • Last stop was The Roasting Party, where Kirby himself made me a flat white.
  • Really, it was an honour!
  • Here's the man himself, pouring the latte art.
  • I love watching a master at work...
  • ... building up the pattern, piece by piece.
  • Almost done...
  • And there's the finished artcile, a flat white using the new Elixir 22 blend in my HuskeeCup.
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For me, Out of the Box was a chance to catch up with lots of roaster friends from around the country. I’ve missed the last couple of Out of the Box events, so I don’t know if the Roasters Village was a new addition for this one, but the last time I attended one, there was just a handful of roasters, so this came as a pleasant surprise.

In all, I think there were 18 roasters from all across England (and including one from Wales). There were a fair smattering from London, including Allpress, Caravan, Climpson and Sons and Dark Arts Coffee, which was to be expected. There also relatively local roasters, such as Cast Iron Roasters from Sussex and Brighton’s Small Batch, as well as Curve Coffee Roasters from Margate.

What I hadn’t expected were the number who had come from further afield. Old friends The Roasting Party were along from Winchester, while Butterworth & Son had come down from Suffolk. The Midlands, East and West, were represented by Outpost Coffee Roasters (Nottingham) and Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters (Birmingham). Extract Coffee Roasters had made the trip from Bristol, while from even further west, across the border in Wales, there was Coaltown Coffee Roasters. Almost from Wales were Shropshire’s Hundred House Coffee, while Neighbourhood Coffee (Liverpool) and Grumpy Mule (Yorkshire) were vying for furthest travelled, along with Cornwall’s Origin.

It was an impressive turnout and although I spent most of my time chatting with various roasters I knew, I still didn’t get round everybody, even less get a chance to try everyone’s coffee (in the end, I only had two, a washed Guatemalan espresso from Curve and the new blend, Elixir 22, in a flat white from The Roasting Party (although I did come away with a bag of a natural Guatemalan from Hundred House that’s been going down very well through my V60 at home).

The one consistent message that I got from everyone I talked to though was home much they all loved the new format and the opportunity it gave them to talk with members of the public outside the normal coffee obsessed who usually attend these events.

The final part of the day was the new barista competition, Crush the Rush, which La Marzocco brought over from America to debut at Out of the Box. I was so impressed by it, that I dedicated a whole post to it!

So, in closing, I had a thoroughly good time and everyone I spoke to had a thoroughly good time, So let’s have more of these please, La Marzocco, who, by the way, are to be commended for having put on such a large event, completely free of charge.


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2 thoughts on “Out of the Box, Tonbridge

  1. Pingback: Crush the Rush | Brian's Coffee Spot

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