Thursday, 24 May 2012

London Coffee Festival Write Up - Part 2

Following on from the London Coffee Festival Write Up - Part 1

The UK Barista Championships (UKBC) were fascinating to watch and it would have been very easy to sink the whole weekend into this alone. 

Well organised, with a good audio visual set up, crowds watched the barista contestants create espresso, a milk based drink and a speciality drink. These drinks were then presented to a range of technical and taste judges. 

It felt somewhere between Masterchef and the DMC’s in terms of excitement, creativity and tension. The event drew a strong audience throughout the day and I'm sure throughout the rest of the weekend. 

James Bailey in action

I particularly enjoyed watching James Bailey from Prufrock who went on to take 2nd place in the UKBC 2012 and win the Brewer's cup. He also claimed best espresso and best speciality drink. Well done James. 

For lunch I wandered the food hall and literally followed my nose. It took me to Wallahwallah, who were swerving Indian inspired street food. There were two types of curry wraps on offer; I opted for the chicken and enjoyed watching it being constructed; a meticulous process. 

Along with the curry core; on went a couple of sauces; on went pickled beetroot; various pulses, seeds and puffed grains. 

It looked a treat before it was all firmly wrapped in a flat bread and devoured by me. It was a good value, large, tasty lunch. If you see these guys at a market near you then I thoroughly recommend.

Near the end of the day I attended a session in The Lab on espresso style coffee making, but no one turned up. This lead me to have a unique opportunity, a one on one session with Vic Frankowski of Dunne-Frankowski café ( over at the Cimbali stand. 

Vic showing the ropes.

We went through tuning the grinder, testing the shots, dosing the portafilter, tamping it down, making a shot of espresso and finally making a latte. It was a fantastic demonstration of the subtitles of coffee making. 

Using the same machine, same grinder, same beans and under expert tuition throughout Vic's coffee still blew mine away. I walked away with his in my hand, not mine, but having said that for a first go, it wasn't that bad.

Half drunk Latte. I made this!

I had a chance to conduct a couple of interviews on the day which will be posted on the blog in the near future. I caught up with Callum Hale Thomson the Young Barrista and thoroughly nice chap who filled me in with his thoughts on brewing, competing & making the best coffee in his household.

I also spoke to the enthusiastic and day brightening Lauren Morris, Programme manager for UK Coffee Week, we spoke a bit about the purpose of the week, what they had been doing and what Project Waterfall , the charity linked to the event, was all about. 

In summary "It aims to raise more than £1 million to deliver safe drinking water and sanitation projects for up to 100,000 people, specifically in Africa." A worthy course to support.

Edmund Buston with his signature martini.

The artisan café was a double bar set up, providing a rolling roster of top baristas. On the day I enjoyed drinks from many baristas including Allpress Espresso, a delicious and potent coffee martini from Edmund Buston from Clifton Coffee and a good old double mac from Alan Tomlins from the Small Batch Coffee Company

There really was a wealth of talent floating about and making great coffee all day.

Alan from Small Batch Coffee.

The festival seemed to be more lively this year with a greater degree of interactivity on the stalls. It was a great chance to meet people from all over the world of coffee including; growers, big chain representatives, manufactures, inventors, independent cafe owners, roasters and champion baristas. 

I drank a staggering amount of coffee which was almost without exception fantastic to taste. 

Aside from Lizzie of Ozone Coffee noting everyone was "really wired" by 4.30 and watching Keith from Union almost blew up a syphon with a panicked "Quick stand back" barked to the customer, my stand out part of the festival have to be Jeremy from UNION’s talk on roasting and the tutelage for Vic Frankowski. 

Two sessions that taught me a whole lot about the drink I love.

If you enjoy coffee and find yourself getting excited about how it is made, the kit, the raw ingredients & also enjoy the experience of wondering through markets then this event is perfect for you. 

Each year a proportion of the ticket price goes to support UK Coffee Week and Project Waterfall so you are doing something good just by turning up. 

For more information about this event please visit Hope to see you there next year.

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