Welcome to the third of my detailed write-ups of the 2019 London Coffee Festival, which took place last month at the Old Truman Brewery. Along with my overall Festival Round-up, so far I’ve written about the coffee and the coffee kit. Today’s the turn of one of my festival highlights, my coffee experiences.
But what do I mean by “coffee experiences”? These are the events that go around the coffee itself, such as coffee cuppings, roasting demos and coffee/food pairings. They’ve been very popular over recent years, with the festival running practical, skills-based events such as Latte Art Live and Home Barista Workshops. There have also been experiences such as The Tasting Room (with subjects ranging from tea to Vermouth) and The Flavour Discovery, a multi-sensory journey from Union Hand-roasted!
As in previous years, most of these events were pre-ticketed, with limited numbers at each event. As a result, I only attended one, the annual La Cimbali Sensory Series, which I only managed to attend thanks to a kind invitation from La Cimbali! Hosted by the fabulous Rob Ward, he manages, year after year, to invent with some new way to challenge the senses and educate at the same time.
Welcome to the second of my detailed write-ups of the 2019 London Coffee Festival, which took place three weeks ago at the Old Truman Brewery. Last week I wrote about the coffee, while this week my focus turns to the kit, those various bits and pieces of coffee-related equipment which you always find at the London Coffee Festival. You can find details about the festival itself in my Festival Round-up, published two weeks ago, while future write-ups include coffee experiences and reusable cups.
The London Coffee Festival has always seen more than its fair share of coffee-related equipment, with many manufacturers choosing to launch their latest products at the festival. This includes a lot of professional equipment, including the latest espresso machines, which, although interesting, are, sadly out of my price range. I’d also need a bigger kitchen!
Since I had limited time this year, only attending for two days, I focused on the home user, further narrowing my focus to some familiar names who were launching new versions of their products, along with some interesting new products from a company I’d not heard of before. This covered a wide range, from the simplicity of a manual grinder all the way up to an (almost fully) automated espresso machine.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about my travelling coffee kit. Back then, I was regularly packing my Aeropress and Travel Press, my Aergrind hand grinder, a set of scales, a metal jug, the occasional kettle and, finally, a decent reusable cup. Fast forward a couple of years, and that’s still the core of my travelling coffee kit, except that recently I’ve added a couple of items to it.
You might think that I already have enough coffee kit and, honestly, I might feel inclined to agree. However, when I first wrote that piece, while travelling a bit for work, much of my travel was for pleasure, often visiting places with great coffee shops, so my travelling coffee kit wasn’t as important.
Since then, as a result of acquiring a gooseneck kettle, I’ve become enamoured with pour-over, something my current kit doesn’t support. I’m also spending far more of my time travelling for work, and I’ve found that I’m missing my pour-over. Therefore, on my most recent trip to China, I decided to do something about it. However, travelling with a V60 and a large pouring kettle (on top of everything else) is impractical, so I needed an alternative.
I want to tackle a subject that is, to some speciality coffee people, anathema. No, not decaf, I did that already. Today, I’m talking about storing coffee, long-term, in the freezer.
There’s a wide consensus on how coffee should be ideally stored: as whole beans, in an airtight container, in a cool, dark place. Never store ground coffee (ie always grind just before you use it) and never store your coffee in the refrigerator. But what about the freezer?
You see, I have a problem. These days, I’m never short of coffee, with people regularly send me things to try. More often than not, though, the bulk of my coffee is given to me at festivals, where I usually return with two or three kg of coffee, many times more than I can drink in a reasonable timescale. Some I will use immediately, some I will give away, but the question is, what to do with the rest?
Since I can’t face letting it go to waste, my solution has been to store it in the freezer, something that’s created a bit of storm on twitter, if the impromptu poll I put up last night is anything to go by…
It’s that time of the year, when everyone publishes Christmas gift guides. This year, due to all the travelling I’ve been doing, I’m a little bit behind, but if you’re looking for some last-minute presents, here’s the Coffee Spot’s entry into the fray, an eclectic selection of gifts for your coffee-loving friends/relatives.
The coffee-loving community can be awkward to buy for, particularly if, like me, they’re towards the far end of the coffee-geek spectrum, when any choice runs the risk of being ill-informed. Do you get them coffee? Or coffee-related kit? Or a book about coffee perhaps?
Never fear, the Coffee Spot’s here to help you out, whether you’re a novice, looking for pointers for gifts for your coffee-obsessed friend, or if you’re that coffee-obsessed friend, looking for a handy guide to point your friends towards. There’s also a few suggestions for presents to help your coffee-loving friends who’re at the top of the slippery slope of coffee-geekdom and just need a helping nudge to begin the headlong descent into the rabbit-hole of speciality coffee.
While this is a Christmas gift guide, feel free to return to it throughout the year. It serves just as well as a birthday/anniversary gift guide…
It’s that time of year again! The Coffee Spot Calendar is now into its sixth year! As always, the calendars are professionally-printed on glossy paper, each month featuring a landscape, A4 picture from one of my favourite Coffee Spots of the last 12 months. This year I’ve been ridiculously busy, so when it came to selecting the pictures, I relied heavy on my friend Keith, a long-time supporter of the Coffee Spot Calendar, who has an excellent eye for a good picture.
Indeed, it was touch-and-go as to whether I’d actually produce a calendar this year, so thanks to Keith, Amanda and everyone else who has encouraged and cajoled me into action. The calendars cost £12.00 (£10.00 for the desktop version) with a flat £2.00 postage and packing charge, regardless of how many you order. If you think we’re likely to meet up in the near future, I’ll waive the postage and hand your calendar over in person! You’ll find prices if you’re ordering from outside the UK after the gallery.
Unfortunately, work commitments have meant that I’m very late (again) in producing this year’s calendars, so while I’ll do my best, I can’t guarantee that they’ll arrive before Christmas.
Regular readers know all about my obsession with reusable cups. I wrote extensively about them at the start of 2017 and again at the start of this year. I’ve even gone as far as to produce my own Guide to Reusable Cups. I’m quite picky though, not really liking plastic and only going for cups that are 9oz or smaller in size.
The initial gold standard was set in 2014 by the glass KeepCup. Since then there have been other glass cups, most notably the SoL Cup, another Australian product. However, I’ve also enjoyed using my ceramic Therma Cup from the UK, still pretty much my go-to cup, while in recent years, various other materials have come along, including recycled coffee grounds (Kaffeeform cup) and bamboo (Ecoffee Cup).
This year, innovation has continued apace and I’m pleased to say that I’ve receive three new cups (all gifts from the manufacturers/distributors). The first, Eco To Go, from the UK, is made from rice husk, a by-product of rice processing. Similarly, the HuskeeCup, an Australian product distributed in the UK by Eco To Go, is made from coffee husks, a by-product of the milling process. Finally, there’s another UK product, Global WAKEcup.
I’ve just returned from 10 days in Rome, five for work, followed by five days of sight-seeing. It’s a city that I adore, but I must confess that I approached the trip with more than a little trepidation, looking forward to the sight-seeing far more than I was the coffee. I last went to Rome almost 10 years ago, long before the Coffee Spot, back when I thought that Italian espresso (and Italian espresso culture) was the pinnacle of coffee. It’s also the city, where, almost 20 years ago, I first gained my love for espresso.
Since then, many things have changed, including my taste in coffee and my opinions of it. I feared that I wouldn’t enjoy the coffee, which in turn might spoil my memories of Rome. Coffee in Rome, and Italian coffee more widely, divides opinion. There are those who dismiss it, saying that Italy has not moved on, that the coffee is rubbish, while at the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty who still hold Italian espresso as the pinnacle of coffee culture.
As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.
Another year, another post wondering where all the time has gone! The Coffee Spot celebrated its sixth birthday on Friday, a milestone which took me even more by surprise than usual. I launched the Coffee Spot six years (and two days ago) on another Friday in September, 28th September 2012 (at 14.15 to be precise) with a vague idea that it might become a useful resource for coffee (shop) lovers and an entertaining way for me to spend (some of) my spare time. Little did I know just how much the Coffee Spot would come to define my life!
In the Coffee Spot’s sixth year, I published 219 times, covering 147 Coffee Spots of various sorts, with the remaining posts covering coffee events, roasters, my travels and the Coffee Spot Awards. I’ve been getting around even more than ever, with six major overseas trips, and a short jaunt to Amsterdam, leadings to a large increase in the number of Travel Spots I’ve published. Despite this travel, I only visited five countries outside the UK, including a first visit to Thailand, although I did visit the USA three times.
In turn, you’ve been visiting the Coffee Spot in ever greater numbers. In the last year, more than 91,000 people visited the Coffee Spot and between you, you’ve looked at almost 150,000 pages. So, thanks to everyone, whether you occasionally dip into the Coffee Spot, or read every single post/page. Without you, there really would be no point in my doing this.
Last week I received an intriguing e-mail from Aniko Somogyi from the Anikona coffee farm in Hawaii. Aniko hosts a show called My Favorite Coffee Story on VoiceAmerica, an internet-based talk radio station. I must confess that I’d not come across My Favorite Coffee Story before (or VoiceAmerica for that matter), but I was intrigued. Each week, Aniko interviews someone from the world of coffee and they spend an hour talking coffee. The shows are pre-recorded and broadcast, unedited, every Tuesday at 4pm Pacific Time (midnight in the UK), with all the previous episodes available on-demand on the VoiceAmerica website or as a podcast (just search for My Favorite Coffee Story on your podcast software/service).
The purpose of the e-mail was to ask whether I’d like to appear on the show. Me? Talking about coffee? For an hour? Hell yeah! As anyone who saw my talk at the British Library last weekend will attest, I can talk about coffee for a long, long time. So, naturally I said yes, and last Wednesday I sat down (virtually) with Aniko and we talked coffee for an hour. Then, last night, the show was broadcast…