The London Coffee Festival Does it Again

Stall at The London Coffee Festival Photograph: Emine Hassan

The Science of Espresso at The London Coffee Festival Photograph: Emine Hassan

Allegra Events hosted its fourth annual London Coffee Festival in Shoreditch, East London last Saturday. Half of all ticket sales went towards water projects in Africa, and perhaps most astonishingly, the festival is still in its toddler years, much like EMDM. But the number of festivalgoers grew by a quarter this year and naturally, we had to be part of that 25%

It’s no secret that it has become common phenomena for nine-to-fivers to chug down a coffee like it’s a shot of Sambuca in the morning.

Glugging a daily grind of premium coffee beans and frothy full fat milk is something we’ve become accustomed to in the 21st century. And judging by the evident rise in coffee enthusiasts, before we know it we’ll be introducing artisanal coffee in secondary schools.

UK Coffee Week

The four-day event was the official launch event for UK Coffee Week, held in the Old Truman Brewery, the heart of hipster paradise and trendsetting central, better known as the Brick Lane hotspot.

The festival was laid out in zones named after popular areas of London. The main floor was called ‘Hyde Park’, where coffee giants, start-ups, well-respected roasters and tropical melodies from The World Music Stage could all be found.

Volcano Coffee Works set up shop to the left of the stage, the ‘gourmet small batch wholesalers’ that started out as a coffee cart selling full steam espresso 10 years ago in London, run by a pair of New Zealanders is now exclusively run by a swelling team of Kiwi Folk.

During the coffee-cart beginning, VCW’s morning trade peaked at full throttle. “It’s quite hard to get a barista and nice coffee, but we pride ourselves on training restaurant and bars staff,” says master roaster Steven Hill from Shepherd’s Bush, 21. “It’s definitely where I want to be right now, I can see myself moving back to New Zealand and doing my own thing with it,” he continued.

High turnover

The company has recently settled into a swanky industrial unit in Dulwich, where they’re bagging up the best beans to equip retailers for the morning trade, aka, the nine-to-fivers whom they were once directly supplying on the streets of London.

“I saw the breakdown cost of a coffee somewhere and about 30% of it goes to the rent of the café, another 30% [is] staff wages, utilities and takeaway cups. I wouldn’t say the turnover is bad, I’d say there’s a profit of about 20% or something,” says Hill.

VCW’s free samples of ketchup container-sized lattes certainly did not deter passers by from briefly lingering, but The World Music Stage was thankfully shielding their vision from the industry’s biggest competitor.

Starbucks holds its own in-house ‘barista art’ championships:“I love coffee so it’s a really good experience, I love doing it,” said Connor Brennan, a Starbucks barista 19, who came all the way from Liverpool to make peacocks and elephants with milk froth for the Starbucks Barista Championships.

“It’s come from a farm, someone’s picked it, and I’m at the last step of the coffee beans journey. I’ve got all the power in me hands,” says Brennan.

Best Coffee

Regardless of his enthusiastic attitude, it might of come as a surprise to Brennan that the festival was held in London.

“You’ll have to come to Liverpool for a proper coffee, in London they slash it on,” he said. “Milk’s got to be a certain temperature otherwise it’ll burn which will ruin the taste of the coffee.”

'Coffee Art' by Starbucks Barista Connor Brennan Photograph: Emine Hassan

‘Coffee Art’ by Starbucks Barista Connor Brennan Photograph: Emine Hassan

Beyond the coffee

Supplying to prestigious coffee clientele, or being part of the madness of a large-scale coffee giant such as Starbucks might be one thing, but the four-day celebration also gave the sweetest small food businesses ‘front row position’ in the festival’s Hyde Park segment.

Hackney based artisan macaron boutique Ganache Macaron sells several flavour variations of one product (two guesses as to what it is). The illusive French financier and food fashion icon is made up of two almond meringue cookies glued together with a filling worthy of its artisanal status – anything from Italian buttercream to salted caramel.

The three-year-old business may have been lucky enough to purchase a one-way ticket to business expansion by exhibiting in ‘Hyde Park’, but they were already serving up their macarons to top names, including Raymond Blanc’s bakeries and Ted Baker.

Sign. Photograph: Emine Hassan

Sign. Photograph: Emine Hassan

Co-Director of Ganache Macaron, Paul Smith from London, 38, said: “We’re hoping to open up and turn it into a proper bakery so you [the public] can buy from us. At the moment all we make are macarons so we get to spend more time experimenting with different flavours.”


Did you visit The London Coffee Festival? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below!



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