Do you ever fear that you’ll never have enough time to travel to all the places you want to see, and have all the new experiences you’d like? My own wishlist is so long, I can barely see the end of it: tasting New York’s iconic cheesecakes and bagels, and hiring a camping van to drive through the South of France in summer, are only a few of my desiderata.
Closer to home, I’ve been planning to visit the London Coffee Festival for the past three years, but always missed out for one reason or the other. The more opportunities I wasted, the stronger my curiosity grew. Was London’s best cup of espresso hiding among those stalls? How many coffee shots would I be able to drink in just one day? Would there be cake, too?
As of yesterday, after my first visit to the yearly caffeine fair at Old Truman Brewery, all my questions have an answer. Here’s a collection of my most remarkable festival finds.
Three shots of espresso…
Londinium Espresso‘s stall was my first stop, inspired by a tempting statement on the brand’s website:
“LONDINIUM espresso won’t tear at the back of your throat with the excessive acidity that is found in roasts intended for coffee flavoured milkshakes. Nor is it over-roasted soot. LONDINIUM espresso is sweet and dense, and can be evaluated on how pleasant the lingering aftertaste is.”
Those words immediately resonated with me. Among all the espressos I had in the UK so far, too many were overly sour – the kind you drink with a grimace of disgust on your face. Londinium’s coffee delivered on all its promises, satisfying my appetite for a good cup of espresso, and kicking off my visit to a good start.
My last coffee of the day, from Italian roastery Caffè Cagliari, was just as satisfying. Made from a Nespresso capsule, it tasted as if it had just come out of a “real deal” coffee machine. For a blissful couple of minutes, the simple act of sipping it with a biscuit reminded me of the afternoons spent in my favourite café from back home. Too bad they don’t do capsules for my Lavazza machine (yet?).
On a more bitter note, I was surprised to come across two large Starbucks and Costa stands. Or, let’s rephrase: I wasn’t surprised to come across Starbucks and Costa’s stands (who but a large corporation could afford a space that size?); I was shocked to note that they were as crowded as their high street counterparts. That someone can walk past a wealth of quality blends and independent brands, and still prefer a styrofoam cup of dignified motor oil with their misspelled name on, will never cease to amaze me.
Anyway, rant over. Disgusting coffee gets to my nerves, just like substandard ice cream or hot-dog crust pizza. That’s the spirit of the little note I left at Julius Meinl‘s Poetry Café, definitely one of the festival’s highlights for me. The challenge is simple: write a poem or aphorism on a piece of paper, hang it on the café’s wall of fame, and get free coffee in return (I went for a heartwarming macchiato). While I’m by no means a poet, I had a lot of fun crafting my note. It reflects my current priorities quite well, don’t you think?
…And a million other stories
Coffee-drinking aside, exploring Old Truman Brewery’s bustling rooms made for a few hours of enjoyment and discovery. We spotted Colombian coffeemakers, international baristas on championship duty, and dapper Italians serving the sweetest, smoothest coffee sorbet.
Alcohol in all shapes and forms completed the picture. How naive of me to expect a coffee festival to come without the booze: we’re in the UK, it’s only natural to drink beer at 3pm on a Saturday. Or a cocktail – why not?
All in all, I had a lovely day, full of everything I enjoy about blogging: not only plunging into new edible adventures and writing about them, but also spending time with like-minded people. I met Jesse and Sarah again, laughed the afternoon away with Honey, browsed the stalls with Alex, Emma and Maria. Here’s to hoping I made new friends, on the internet and beyond.
The London Coffee Festival ends today, so grab a ticket and enjoy the feast while you can. If you do, don’t forget to let me know what you enjoyed the most (or, indeed, enjoyed the least). I look forward to hearing your impressions.
London Coffee Festival
Old Truman Brewery
15 Hanbury Street
London, E1 6QR
(nearest tube station: Liverpool Street; nearest Overground station: Shoreditch High Street)
Tickets: £11.50 online, £14.50 on the door
Open on Sunday 6 April, see available time slots here
Note: I received a free pass to the London Coffee Festival from Nuffnang UK. All opinions are my own.