This weekend was the London Coffee Festival.

It is clear that coffee is a big deal. It has been a big deal for some time now. And anyone attending the festival this weekend will be as surprised as me to see just how big that deal is.

Based in The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, there was room after room of bearded coffee geek. Beards are big in the coffee world too. As are Antipodeans. Why is it that the best coffee makers are from Aussie or Kiwi descent? They have a knack of drawing out the smoothest deepest flavour that make the most of the roasted bean and the creamiest tones in the milk.



It all starts with the bean and these days we celebrate the speciality coffee movement known as third wave coffee. Whilst the history of roasted coffee goes all the way back to 1000AD, wave one was officially registered when coffee plants reached the new world in the early 18th century and became a worldwide commodity by the late 1800’s.

Speciality coffee evolved in the 1960’s with Espresso bars like Peet’s in the USA and was the platform from which Starbucks launched in Seattle in 1971 – generally acknowledged as the face of wave two. For decades it was de rigueur to know your tall from your short, your latte from your flat white and your wet from your dry. But as with all worldwide mass brands that invade the culture, there is a kick back against it.


The third wave movement was that responder, celebrating the nuances of roasting coffee, in the same way that winemakers make wine. The beans are sourced not only from specific countries, but directly from farms and at times even from limited trees within that farm. The flavours are cultivated with careful, skilled, fresh roasting that draws out the unique characteristics of each bean as appropriate in each farming season. It has bred a world of micro roasters who are getting incredible flavour and specialising in the art of roasting.

The art of coffee also lies in the brewing method which has created an industry of coffee paraphernalia… and the milk. A few years ago I went to LAMill Coffee in LA which had a huge menu of something like 20 coffees and every which way to brew it. You had to choose your bean and then your chosen method of preparation. Then the experts would prepare your chosen beverage. The only issue is that my knowledge was not there, so I really didn’t appreciate which bean or which method. I just wanted a nice cup of coffee and even after a 12 minute wait, I have to admit it was one of the poorest coffees I had during that trip. Sometimes I feel that the madness becomes so insular that it forgets to bring the punter on board as well. So best to leave it to the experts and take their recommendations instead.


I had a good chat with Climpson & Sons at the festival. They are the roasters we use at work and are based in Broadway Market, making really fab beans. They even treated me to what they said was the world’s best coffee… the Colombian Las Margaritas. I did enjoy it but honestly am not sure my expertise really appreciated just how special (or expensive) it was.


Also at the show was a coffee/food as well as a coffee/wine pairing area; roasting workshops; a barista championship; latte art masterclasses and much more. For those in the know it was a great way to celebrate this ever growing industry and to share coffee stories with like minded enthusiasts.


For others, just a chance to compare beards and play trendy games. But whatever your take from it, the celebration of all things coffee will continue for a long time to come and so for any discerning food business, you have to know to get on board and smell the coffee…just make sure it is a well roasted, perfectly crafted one!