Despite its reputation for tea swilling, London has been quietly fostering a healthy third-wave coffee scene for some time now. Perfectly poured latte art? Single-origin espresso blends? Chemex filtration? London’s baristas are on it. In recent years, a spate of indie roasters and cafes have sprung up across the city, and the upcoming second annual London Coffee Festival, the UK’s largest coffee event, will bring a number of them together under one roof from 25-28 April.
Held at the Old Truman Brewery space on Brick Lane, the festival will be divided into four distinct zones: Hyde Park, Shoreditch, Soho, and Showroom, each of which will play host to a number of stands and events. For four days, industry connoisseurs and entry-level coffee fiends will meet for tastings, classes, demonstrations, and competitions, all celebrating the magic of this most vital of beans. Hg2 is also getting in on the action with a fab coffee prize: one eligible reader will win two premium tickets to the festival (which come with The London Coffee Guide 2013) as well as a 250g bag of cult roaster Union Hand-Roasted Coffee’s top-quality, ethically sourced, artisanally roasted beans. To enter, simply share this post on Facebook or link to this blog post on Twitter, and we’ll choose a winner next Wednesday, the 24th!
The festival is sure to be packed with jittery coffee drinkers, so we recommend clearing a path through the fray to hit up these must-see stands and events:
True Artisan Café
Java junkies, barista groupies, and straight-up caffeine addicts, listen up: the True Artisan Café at the London Coffee Festival is where you’ll want to park yourself. A pop-up coffee-shop-within-a-coffee-festival, the café will be helmed by a different barista every three hours, all of them hailing from 33 of London’s pre-eminent coffee shops and roasters (Nude Espresso, Extract Coffee Roasters, Shoreditch Grind, and the like). Best of all, they’ll be pulling shots from a La Marzocca Strada machine (that’s the Rolls-Royce of espresso machines, for the uninitiated), which allows for unprecedented fiddling with water pressure in order to craft the best shot possible, each and every time.
UK Barista Competition 2013
Who will be crowned champion of them all? This annual event forces baristas to put their mettle to the test, and during the intense semi-finals and finals (the former taking place on Saturday the 27th at 10 AM, the latter on Sunday the 28th at 1 PM) participants will need to produce four espressos, four cappuccinos, and four espresso-based signature drinks (without alcohol, natch). Voyeurs and adrenaline junkies can also attend a series of one-off competitions, including a cup-tasting challenge and a latte art contest.
The Union Roastery
Whether you’ve not the foggiest idea about how you like your beans roasted (if it’s dark brown, that’ll do fine) or whether you’re a total roasting snob (four days before brewing and done on a Diedrich IR series, please), you’ll want to stop by The Union Roastery for a series of live demonstrations. Attendees can watch beans turn from tawny yellow to chocolate brown in real time, and can follow up the roasting with demonstrations of ideal brewing techniques (V60, aeropress, and siphon will be on display) before everyone’s favourite step: tasting.
The Espresso Martini Masterclass with Shoreditch Grind
Booze and coffee: the ideal pairing for those who like to mix their uppers with their downers (and much nicer than vodka Red Bull, surely). The baristas at Shoreditch Grind, a famous East London coffee and cocktail outpost and recording studio that’s been brewing up some of the city’s best flat whites since 2011, will lead festival attendees in the art of making the perfect espresso martini. Step one: make sure you haven’t already overdosed on coffee, as quivering hands will make cocktail crafting a challenge.
Brewers & Union: What is Craft Beer Doing at a Coffee Festival?
The title of this bi-beverage event posits a valid question, though perhaps the best answer would be: who cares, as long as it tastes good? Craft beer and third wave coffee, despite outward appearances, actually share a great deal in common: both have recently exploded in popularity and both domains harbour a particular concern for artisanal products. Craft ale and lager developers Brewer & Union will be on hand to rep another species in the beverage biosphere – if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to grab some sudsy samples.
The Make Decent Coffee Lounge
If you’re like us, you make excuses about why you pay £3 for a latte out when you’ve got everything you need at home to throw together a cup of joe: It just doesn’t taste the same. Your cafetiere/drip machine/banged-up espresso maker barely works. It’s just too much trouble. The Make Decent Coffee Lounge will, for the sake of all involved, work to change those attitudes by instructing on how to brew a pot at home that rivals café coffee in quality but not in pricing.
Want to go to the festival but haven’t bought your tickets yet? Remember to enter our exclusive giveaway for the chance to win two premium tickets and 250g of Union Hand-Roasted coffee!
Words by Claire Bullen