London Coffee Festival 2014
Like most young urbanites, I enjoy a good cup of coffee. Rarely without a cup before 2pm, and almost in a permanent state of the jitters, you can imagine my excitement when I discovered that there is a whole festival dedicated to the stuff. This should come as no surprise however, as approximately 2.5 billion cups of coffee are consumed every day, and it makes up the world’s largest food trade. London is undoubtedly in possession of it’s own coffee scene, and right on queue, thousands of people gathered down at the Old Truman Brewery to soak up all the perks of the coffee lover’s lifestyle and collectively consume enough caffeine to wake the dead.
But of course at this level, it’s not just about the caffeine. Coffee comes in all different flavours (and no, I am not talking about the flavoured syrups they pour in your tanks at Starbucks,) differing with the way the bean has been grown and roasted, the taste of the coffee can range from fruity to nutty. One of my first stops of the day was at Union Coffee, with its’ on tour roastery and taste testing bar. Perfecting their roasts to the nth degree, Union set a tone of enthusiasm for what the rest of the festival had in store.
Throughout the venue were stands for various coffee shops, espresso gear and just about everything you could ever need to accompany your brew. Whether you’re after a snazzy reusable cup for the morning rush, or a V60 filter for those lazy Sunday mornings, the festival offered every accessory and necessity under the sun. The amount of baristas present was slightly overwhelming, and, not wanting to overdo it, I had to be slightly reserved and not jump on the first self-service machine I came across. Familiar with very few of the exhibitors, it was a great opportunity to explore new brands and services. Competition was at extreme as it gets, and it was great to see what each brand bought to the table; leading to the tastings being much more diverse than expected.
For the hardcore connoisseurs, there were talks and workshops on coffee processing, catalysing and decaffination, talks from various sponsors, and participation in the assembly of a La Marzocco espresso machine. You could also view a roasting over at Union, which proved to be pretty neat.
But was this it for an entire three-day festival? Of course not! Coffee has become a lifestyle, and the event was in cahoots with Milk and Sugar; an event celebrating urban lifestyle and culture. They occupied a modest floor space, filled with fashion, photography, electronics, and of course, bikes. The space was cool and calm, and gave you a break from the milk steam and caffeine sweats of the floor above. And heaven forbid you grew tired of drinking nothing but coffee; there was a cozy corner of street food and juice vendors, with some of the best falafel in town, and probably the only time you will ever get to eat at the Breakfast Club.
To round off the day, the main floor was host to bands and DJs from some of the countries from which our holy bean originates. Friday features musicians from Brazil, Saturday Columbia, and Sunday was an African mix. I can’t say entirely what I expected from the London Coffee Festival, but I do know that I didn’t expect it do be quite as big as it was. I spent the first half an hour being generally overwhelmed by the whole affair, and the remaining two and a half hours attempting to try as much as possible. Coffee seems like a slightly obscure commodity to hold a festival for, but it bought about a great atmosphere, and I left the place with a real buzz. But of course that could just be the caffeine.