With around 1.7 billion cups of coffee enjoyed by people in the UK every year it is no wonder the strong black brew has developed a following of its own. The London Coffee Festival happily caters to this ever-growing trend. Having taken place from 3-6 April 2014, the weekend before UK Coffee Week, the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch was transformed into a mekka for those worshipping their favourite drink. Once a year, coffee producers, suppliers, baristas and the general public are invited to explore what’s new on the coffee scene and, for a long weekend, the former factory building is transformed into a veritable labyrinth of sampling stalls and enticing smells. Over 22,000 visitors couldn’t resist the temptation and attended the fourth edition of the festival.
In the Lab, visitors got a chance to practice their coffee-making skills and attend free talks on coffee-related topics, which ranged from coffee and chocolate pairing to a lot more scientific presentations on water testing and filtration and the latest market trends. Speaking of which, if there is anything I took away from a day of exploring this coffee wonderland in East London it was the focus on quality, local preferences, attention to detail and sustainability as a given rather than a USP.
But how does this kind of event qualify as a festival you ask? The organisers had obviously thought about that as well and cleverly put a world music stage with lots of quirky bean bags to sit on right in the centre of the main exhibition area. A number of pop-up cocktails bars offered espresso mixed with a variety of alcoholic delights to fuel coffee fans all day long. Located all the way around the fair were also innumerable stalls by coffee roasters where baristas practiced their art. A coffee art exhibition and a poetry café brought out the best in caffeine-fuelled creativity while the Milk & Sugar section downstairs completed the festival with all sorts of stylish urban wares, more food and drink and even a pop-up barber shop.
Good to know: the festival raised around £77,000 for Project Waterfall, supporting clean drinking water in Tanzania in partnership with WaterAid. In addition to the London event, the festival organiser, Allegra Events, also run a coffee festival in Amsterdam (2-3 May 2014), just in case you need a reason to visit one of my favourite European cities this spring.