The London Coffee Festival is more than just a showroom of coffee purveyors. Coffee consumers drink up, party down, and perhaps see a surprise or two at the biggest festival to date.
BY ALICE TOBY-BRANT
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
You can almost smell it the moment you enter Brick Lane: the heady scent of groggy coffee folks who have denied themselves their morning cup of joe in favor of congregating toward the Old Truman Brewery. This is the mecca of cool conferences in the UK’s capital, and we are all here for one reason: the London Coffee Festival.
The festival is currently running, ending Sunday, April 9, with at least 30,000 people in attendance. With both independent and chain coffeehouses popping up on every corner in London, it’s not surprising this is a popular event. Since the festival began seven years ago, the UK coffee scene has been experiencing quite the revival. Those in the trade, those with a passion, and those with a passing interest for coffee are all here in force to sample the delights available.
LCF has stalls by the bucket load (around 250 at last count), all offering their bean blends along with assorted coffee paraphernalia, but they manage to keep the vibe both relaxed and exciting. The latte art stalls are a huge draw to passersby, as delicate swans and heart-infused designs appear in awesome detail from creamy colored cups of java. As difficult as this is, and it is tricky, you can have a go yourself at the workshop stands. The first time you successfully create a heart-shaped image, you’ll be hooked for life!
At times the festival takes on a night-out vibe, and you would be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled into a club. DJ decks are dotted around many of the rooms and corridors, playing everything from hip-hop to classic rock and ’90s chart music. The VIP area, with its pink and red lighting and private bar, does little to dissuade you from this line of thought.
As you venture further into the exhibition, it all becomes—at least a little—more relaxed. The Hyde Park area, complete with fake grass, white benches, and lampposts, is meant to resemble the famous London greenery. If you’re very quick, it’s here you will be able to grab a deck chair and kick back while ever-perky staff wander past with samples of their particular blends. Periodically bands will take to the stage, and a music festival feel will percolate throughout the room. This is also where you’ll find the espresso martini van. VIPs are entitled to a free cocktail (over 18s only, this is England!), but anyone else wishing to sample this tipple will be set back £8 ($16). Lucky punters could also be offered coffee parings in this area, including whiskey for the adults and chocolate for everyone else!
Should you find yourself craving a little fresh air, the Secret Garden—again only for VIP guests—has a cocktail bar and BBQ on the go for the entire event. With the blessed sunshine (it doesn’t always rain in the UK, you know) beating down, this makes for some light relief from the throngs of coffee lovers milling their way around the maze-like venue.
If you’re looking to be surprised, the London Coffee Festival has you covered. How about a coffee spread? Dark, smooth and Nutella-like in appearance, Flat Brew has a silky consistency and would be an interesting addition to your breakfast pastries.
Not surprising enough for you? How about coffee jewelry, then—and no, we’re not talking about those gold-bean-shaped necklaces we had in the ’90s. Jeweler Rosalie McMillan is working with GreenCup Coffee, and her geometric designs are made of 75 percent coffee resin. The waste, or ‘puck,’ we throw away from our home espresso machines is combined with an alloy and decorated with gold or sterling silver. The results are an indulgence that are both eye-catching and give you the ability to say you’re buying them to help the planet.
Obtaining a VIP ticket seems to be worth the extra you pay, as this gives you full-day admission to the festival—standard tickets are broken down into three-hour slots. VIP tickets include access to the VIP hospitality suite and a fast-track entry to jump the queue. It’s a particularly handy perk, as the lines to enter will stretch around the block starting at least an hour before the doors open.
You’re also gifted with a London Coffee Festival tote bag that includes the usual bundle of pamphlets, leaflets, and free samples. One addition that is rather noteworthy, however, is the London Coffee Guide 2017, a slickly designed and expertly photographed book showcasing the best spots this city has to savor your favorite jitter juice.
The hottest of beverages in the coolest of venues, the London Coffee Festival is going to be around for a long time to come, so you may well pop along and see what all the fuss is about. It’d be rude not to!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alice Toby-Brant has been a blogger and freelance writer at www.themiddlesister.co.uk for seven years, writing about an array of topical subjects. She also currently curates Instagram accounts for small businesses in the gorgeous town of Cambridge (UK not US). She’s an avid photographer and enjoys populating herInstagram with images of whatever she feels is relevant—usually coffee, flowers, and food, with the odd selfie thrown in. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram under the handle @theemiddlesis.