Recent years have seen the rise of the coffee culture, driven in no small part by growing Antipodean influences in London. Artisan cafés are now a regular fixture in most neighbourhoods, while espresso bars and roastery cafés are emerging across the city. Coffee is more than just the fuel we reach for the morning, as the coffee experience takes centre stage. And so it was with a keen enthusiasm for exploring the art of tasting coffee, that my friend and I headed to the London Coffee Festival this weekend, back for its fifth year at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane.
We arrived late afternoon to find the place already abuzz, a charged atmosphere running through the large space. With more than 250 coffee roasters and indie cafés to check out, exciting new food start-ups, interactive workshop and demonstrations from world-class baristas, we felt like children in an extremely caffeinated candy land. The next few hours passed by in a blur of brews and eats as our inner foodie demanded we also taste-test everything on offer from gourmet popcorn to sourdough doughnuts.
One of the main highlights for us was the “Make Decent Coffee Lounge” where the coffee brand ThreeSixty° were on hand to guide us in the art of brewing perfect coffee using various methods including the AeroPress, Chemex, v60 and French Press. I especially loved their demonstration on the v60 pour-over – a fairly straightforward brewing method which uses a cone-shaped dripper with ridges along the side and an opening at the bottom to smoothen the flow of the coffee. The process is actually quite mesmerising to see and yields a crisp and light-bodied coffee. In case you’re interested, you can watch it below as part of their nifty “How To” series on YouTube:
We also had fun at Union’s pop-up roastery, where the focus was on helping coffee lovers develop a palate to distinguish between the aromatic elements and flavours of coffee from floral notes to nut-like textures. We followed up the Pro-Amateur Flavour Challenge (a test to spot the odd one out from three brewed coffees) with one of their single origin flat-whites. And seeing as nothing goes better with a good coffee than a good doughnut, we also picked up a little gourmet treat from Crosstown Doughnuts along the way – a cross between sourdough and yeast, these hybrid wonders have a distinct doughy texture encasing the most decadent fillings. Sadly they were out of salted caramel and creme brûlée by the time we got to them, but the Belgian chocolate truffle quite did the trick too (you can read more about my fascination with Crosstown here).
Among the helpful tips we picked up, were also easy steps for concocting a Baileys flat white martini (we tried it, its delicious):
Other great finds from the evening included the new coffee label Press’d which offers a pure Arabica coffee concentrate in a handy, pocket-sized bottle. This innovative start-up is far removed from the average instant coffee as it uses a patented low temperature brew method that preserves the aroma and flavour of the coffee beans. And it’s easy to use – you simply squeeze the bottle, add hot water and voilà! We can’t wait for it to hit the stores.
For coffee enthusiasts still wired up from the Festival, there is reason for cheer as UK Coffee Week kicks off this week from May 4-10. Coffee shops across the country are planning in-store events and workshops to celebrate the vibrancy of coffee culture, and all for a great cause: the funds raised will support Project Waterfall, which aims to provide clean water and sanitation to coffee growing communities. You can find out more here.