The London Coffee Festival was already the biggest coffee festival in the world, and apparently this year it's doubled in size. Since being the Creative Designer at Pret A Manger, I have learnt quite a bit about coffee, but didn't know how this one subject could fill an entire festival. Well apparently it can, and quite easily by the look of it. Brimming with coffee cocktails, barista competitions and about every kind of bean roasted under the sun - my coffee cup runneth over.
On arrival at the East London destination of the Truman Brewery, I was met with the sweet smell of coffee, which practically guided me in from street level. The festival spreads across two floors and multiple rooms, with pumping beats from live DJs and the whizzing sounds of coffee theatrics in progress. In the centre of the first room is a box stage where you can witness the highly exciting Coffee Master showdown. Here you can see some of the worlds best baristas go head-to-head, competing in areas from latte art to espresso blending. It's a great concept and presented wonderfully, with screens showing the baristas handiwork up close.
Throughout the festival you can taste coffees from all over the world and learn about different brewing techniques. It really is a coffee lovers paradise. And when you are almost at capacity for that caffeinated good stuff, there are teas, juices and chocolate to refresh the palette. I loved the branding and presentation by Karma Cola, which is one of the few cola's to still use real cola nut in their recipe. The bottle design was characterful and the drinks had a great full-bodied flavor. Design was at a high level across a majority of the festival and it was great to be introduced to products I never knew about before. This was the case for Mr. Black, a cold press coffee liqueur with a bottle that would sit perfectly in any high-end bar. The deep, dark liquid called me from within the bottle and tasted rich and warming. Other big themes at the festival included matcha tea and almond milk, with a whole host of brands creating very tempting offerings.
The day ended at the Volcano Coffee Works with a coffee cocktail of cold brew espresso martini named the Nitro Spro'tini. It was a great first experience of the festival and I was left buzzing from the sheer range of stalls, and perhaps partially due to my caffeine consumption. There was a real wealth of knowledge in the building, and a lot of people very passionate about their brew. If you love coffee, then this is the place for you and if you don't, then you might leave converted.
The London Coffee Festival marks the beginning of UK Coffee Week, which sees thousands of coffee shops across the UK unite to raise funds for Project Waterfall. The charity brings clean water and sanitation to coffee growing communities around the globe, and between 11-17 April 2016, coffee shops will have in-store activities to help the cause.
Images: Richard Brownlie-Marshall