New York Coffee Festival Brings Competition, Education, and Delicious Coffee All Under One Roof
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos courtesy of The New York Coffee Festival/Lassara Photography
New York might not be thought of as a “coffee town” like Portland, Ore., or Seattle, but just try to imagine New York without coffee: The place just wouldn’t be the same. Nowhere was that more obvious than at the New York Coffee Festival that just took place at Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory the weekend of September 16-18. A consumer-focused event aimed at giving coffee lovers a chance to experience some of the best and brightest brews, products, intel, and coffee people the world has to offer, the event was expected to draw a crowd of over 10,000 people during the weekend’s festivities, and there certainly wasn’t a dull moment or an empty corner (or empty cup!) in the cavernous venue.
The show floor was broken up into several sections including the “True Artisan Cafe,” where myriad fantastic coffee makers and brands teamed with La Marzocco for delicious coffee hand-outs, mini lessons, and a top-notch hospitality experience; a “Street Food Market” where patrons could soak up that fourth espresso with a crepe or cookie; and “The Village,” which served as a kind of cozy “cafe crawl,” and where I stood with my mates from Cafe Imports. Separate stages hosted the nine gifted participants in the Coffee Music Project ”a competition highlighting fantastic coffee-obsessed original songwriting and musical performance ”and the Coffee Masters ”sort of the “Ninja Warrior” of coffee events, with ace baristas working through a series of caffeinated tasks and obstacles (including a cupping, latte art, and creating a signature beverage) in order to claim top prize. Coffee Masters NYC winner Yuko Inoue of London’s Timberyard beat 15 highly expert contenders to take home the 5,000 GBP purse.
The winner of the Coffee Music Project will not only be awarded $1,000 cash, but also the opportunity to record in a London studio; the contestants performed at the New York Coffee Festival before their finals performance/competition at the local music venue Webster Hall on Monday, September 19.
Downstairs at the Armory were daily Lab sessions, featuring 20ish-minute talks by some of the industry’s leaders, including Cafe Imports president Andrew Miller speaking about cupping for quality; Andrew Owens of Toby’s Estate on “What is specialty coffee? and Michal Molcan, founder-editor of Standart Magazine, who spoke about design in the specialty-coffee industry.
The line of coffee-crazed New Yorkers who were just twitching to get into the show snaked around the building and down the block on Saturday and Sunday (Friday was “industry day,” open to trade and press), and the crowds were buzzing by 11am, not slowing down throughout, all the way to the relatively late closing time of 7:30pm. No doubt the Bailey’s mixed drinks, Espresso Martini Bar, and craft beer and wine available helped visitors balance their caffeine levels, but everyone seemed excited to buy bags of coffee from both local roasters (Variety Coffee, Cafe Grumpy, Dallis Brothers, Birch Coffee, Joe New York), and ones from farther afield (Quills Coffee). There was also plenty of brewing equipment ”including including newly released custom-etched Chemexes ”and vessels to pour into “ for instance, an array of cute, colorful KeepCups. Grinders, scales, milk-steaming pitchers, coffee, filters, T-shirts ”and it was all available for one-stop shopping in the marketplace-slash-coffee-wonderland.
The New York Coffee Festival is the U.S. arm of the wildly popular London and Amsterdam Coffee Festivals, dreamed and produced by the U.K. marketing strategy and research company Allegra. A charitable venture as well as a caffeinated one, 50% of the money from ticket sales are given to Project Waterfall, a clean-drinking-water organization for which the 2015 New York Coffee Festival raised $40,000. The London and Amsterdam Coffee Festivals will return in 2017. For more information about this event and to find out about next year’s New York Coffee Festival, check out www.newyorkcoffeefestival.com.
Erin Meister (you can call her just œMeister ) has always led a kind of weird, caffeinated double life. As a coffee professional, she’s been a barista, retail manager, wholesale-support representative, and educator; as a journalist she’s written and/or edited work for The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Serious Eats, Saveur.com, and Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine ”as well as the gem you’re holding in your hot little hands. These days she can be found selling green coffee for Café Imports, riding her bike around the beautiful Twin Cities, and finally (finally!) taking a break from blogging. You can email her at email@example.com.