Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We go to the London Coffee Festival

Just a few days before meeting Kevin McCloud, we went on another adventure. Adam is here to tell you about our day:

On a miserable London morning we made our way to the 'trendy' area of Spitalfields, 
to the London Coffee Festival and UK Barista Championships. The coffee fans were out in force, and we joined the end of the queue, which soon went around the block:

Loooooooong queue
When we eventually got inside, there were a multitude of booths, selling or advertising everything from espresso vodka shots to corn chips to cupcakes. Surprisingly there were possibly more chocolate-related stands than coffee ones! It made for lots of free chocolate samples though, so no complaints here...
Non-coffee-related lunch
We watched a couple of the competitors in the Barista Championships final. They follow quite a particular routine - having 15 mins to prepare 4 espressos, 4 cappuccinos and 4 'signature drinks', all while talking through what they are doing. They need to explain what beans they used in their blend, and why, and what characteristic each brings to the cup. There were 7 judges (!) - 4 'sensory judges' who score the taste, texture etc of the drinks, another 2 judges who keep an eye on the technique of the coffee making, cleanliness etc, as well as a head judge.
A Barista at work, closely watched by (some of the numerous) judges
We spent the rest of the time wandering around checking out the stalls, and sampling different chocolates and coffees. The coffee culture in England generally is considered to be behind NZ and Aus. It is very difficult to find a good coffee outside of London. It seems to me that they are catching up quickly though. There is a particular focus in London on brewed coffee. Whereas espresso is almost always made from a blend of different beans, brewed coffee is generally made from single origin beans. This enables you to more easily try different beans, and experience the different characteristic of each. 

So at the show there were quite a lot of demonstrations of different brew methods, which was good to see. We were already using an Aeropress ( and got to see a couple of demonstrations on that. I was surprised at the lack of home espresso equipment on show or for sale. A missed opportunity for sellers, I think. 

Overall, it was a thoroughly interesting morning, and something else to add to the London experience. 

[Editor's note: You can't really go too wrong with free chocolate now, can you?! I just wish the flat whites had been free too...
I should add, we did also get to try some of the Kopi Luwak or civet coffee ( - the cat poo coffee!! This crazy type of Asian civet that looks a bit like a monkey-cat eats the beans of coffee berries and then poos them out. The enzymes in the digestive tract break down the coffee beans (read the Wiki article if you want a scientific analysis) and make them taste better. Goodness knows how someone discovered that one...
One of the Aeropress guys was brewing up some poo-fee, so we thought we'd take the opportunity and try some. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, as this stuff is sold in exclusive London stores for up to £50 for ONE ESPRESSO! Yep.
I thought it was ok, nothing special, though I don't usually drink black coffee anyway. Adam obviously didn't think it was anything special as he didn't even remember we'd tried it! Lucky we didn't pay to try that one...]

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