My London Coffee Festival by George Luke
2016’s London Coffee Festival was the biggest yet and a huge caffeinated buzz surrounded East London for four days. Looking forward to festival write-ups from a range of coffee bloggers and industry types, we instead sent George Luke, a man who enjoys his coffee and is interested enough to attend but has no immediate connection with the London coffee scene. George is a writer, radio producer and DJ and his report gives a fresh, personal perspective on the coffee festival experience for customers...
It’s April, and London’s annual celebration of all things caffeinated takes up residence at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane yet again.
This is my third London Coffee Festival. I’m a long way off from thinking of myself as a coffee expert, but I am interested enough to want to spend a whole Saturday at a coffee festival, so I suppose that counts for something. Whereas in previous years I’ve come and simply wandered round, this year I have a goal and a focus. I am here on a quest… to find a decent brush.
Yes, a brush. I finally got round to buying a burr grinder earlier this year, after receiving a bag of coffee beans as a Secret Santa gift last Christmas. I’ve since learnt that those things need proper maintenance, but none of the cleaning brushes I’ve bought for it so far have really cut it. Surely a coffee festival would be the ideal place to find one?
First things first; let’s get in. This year, I have a VIP pass - which, theoretically, means not having to stand in that massive queue. But such is the popularity of the London Coffee Festival, even the VIP entrance has a queue. Thankfully, not a very long one; within ten minutes, I am in, goodie bag in hand, having a chat with Jan, co-founder of a Dutch coffee shop called Keen Coffee.
The next conversation I have is with a man demonstrating an interesting new invention: a travel mug with a built in hand coffee grinder and filter ---editor’s note - George is referring to the Cafflano coffee maker. To someone who thought the SmartCafé mug was revolutionary, this was… well, actually, a lot of work just for one mug of coffee. Still, it deserves some marks for effort…
The more you wander about the London Coffee Festival, the more obvious it becomes that it’s about more than just coffee - which could be why when I mentioned on Facebook where I was, a friend responded with “That just sounds a bit hipster to me”. It probably does, but I’ve met some genuinely nice people here. And yes, some of them did have big beards, but so what?
There are loads of other things to discover here. Things such as art, for instance; the paintings in the Coffee Art mini-gallery were very fetching. They had to be. Parked up right next to them was the most eye-catching contraption in the entire festival: the piece of wonder that is the Steampunk Coffee Machine!
LCF is about taking pride in your work, as seen in the barista competitions. It’s a place where you see people trying to be both entrepreneurial and ethical at the same time - such as the guys I saw selling crockery made from recycled coffee grounds, or the Karma Cola company, one of whose representatives had flown in from Sierra Leone a day or two before the festival, and happily chatted to punters about the cola nuts his company’s drinks are made from.
On the live music front, the best act I saw was Gypsy Hill. Utterly delightful and mad as a box of frogs, their fusion of Balkan brass, ska and electronica was just the thing for a roomful of people who had massive caffeine and sugar rushes they needed to work off. We danced. We bounced. We danced some more. The band came off the stage and joined us on the fake lawn. It was magic.
And my search for a brush? I did come across one stand that had lots of coffee-related accessories for sale, but no brushes for cleaning grinders. But the bloke manning the stand was very helpful; he pointed me in the direction of a shop nearby that would have some for sale. More good advice came from someone on the DeLonghi stand: “The best brush is one that looks like a toothbrush but has metal bristles. Or you could get a mini vacuum cleaner with small attachments and get right in there.”
It’s now Monday. Any excess stimulation that may have been caused by the continuous consumption of caffeine and sugar on Saturday has definitely worn off. As I look back at LCF 2016, my memories are of a fun day. I discovered a few new coffees, played table football with my friend Pete and his little twin girls, jumped up and down like a mad thing to Gypsy Hill’s fantastic music, saw some beautiful paintings and discovered Hotel Chocolat’s beef jerky! I still don’t consider myself a coffee expert, but I’ve learnt a lot and am willing to learn more.
George has compiled a Spotify playlist of some of the music the various DJs at the festival played while he was there. Here’s the link for it: https://open.spotify.com/user/jorgel/playlist/0IrAaTfvIQNduyjZjxlXw9
George was looking for a brush to clean his burr grinder. We at London’s Best Coffee would recommend http://coffeehit.co.uk/ for your coffee gear needs.
Photo Courtesy Volcano Coffee Works