Ozone Coffee Roasters
Alchemy frozen Cascara
L’Accademia di Cimbali
The annual London Coffee Festival is the culmination of the charity-driven UK Coffee Week, a celebration of coffee. It’s not just speciality coffee and, unfortunately, there aren’t huge amounts of independents there. It is, at its heart, a trade show and so for every coffee stand, there are a few tea, chocolate or beer stands accompanying it. The Festival takes place in the upstairs of the Truman Brewery in the depths of, now hipsterfied, Brick Lane. It really is a perfect setting for this, though the people lining the bar, listening to a live singer/songwriter are distinctly fashionista rather than hipster. It’s another sign of coffee becoming more than a cultural niche.
There was so much going on that I will just focus on the speciality side of the festival. In particular, the roasters that had stands there. This was not, by any means, the biggest London roasters, though they are playing a part in taking control of the brew bar at various points this weekend. One of the most interesting chats I had was with the people at Volcano Coffee Works, who were putting their coffee through some Rocket Espresso machines. Volcano are an up-and-coming roaster in West Dulwich, who are new to the scene, but making strides. The espresso they made was a very consistent taste, drinkable from start to finish, with smooth floral after-notes. Their barista informed me that they supply a lot to bars and restaurants that take coffee seriously, as well as some coffee shops around London.
The Festival had an entire room dedicated to makedecentcoffee.com, a company that demonstrates how it’s possible to brew great filter coffee at home, an idea that I always try to push. They had several members of staff making Chemex, Cafetiere, V60 and Aeropress for people who could come along and see how easy it is. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed with the coffee itself, and I really felt that this would have benefitted from good beans. Everything was measured and timed properly, but the coffee lacked any flavour. If anything, this would achieve the reverse of what it intended, with people going away and thinking that it was impossible to make coffee to the same standard as you can get in a coffee shop.
Allpress Coffee started in New Zealand 25 years ago, and then spread to Australia. Their antipodean way of making great espresso blend has recently made a foray into London, with a new UK Allpress opening in Shoreditch. They are attracting a whole lot of wholesale. The barista pulled a shot of espresso to try. It was quite characteristic of Allpress, not for the fainthearted. A sweet, but bold taste that calmed down as it got cooler. The Allpress space was a cool, laid back area where you could chill out on a sofa for a bit. Not that I could sit down after so much caffeine.
Several important trade exhibitors were there, including La Marzocco (the industry-standard espresso machine) and Marco, who make boilers. Their most ground-breaking product is the Uberboiler that provides the barista with all the tools they need to make the perfect filter coffee. Hario importers, Brewed by Hand, had a massive selection of cool brewing tools, ranging from V60s to some bizarre looking siphons. Also, industry-leader Coffee Hit were selling anything tea or coffee related. La Cimbali were also there, but not in a trade capacity. Their stand was designed to show how espresso machines have changed over the last 80 years as pressure profiling has changed. The ability for an espresso machine to control how long the coffee is left to soak before the pressure starts pushing through can have a huge impact on how watery the taste is. Modern technology has enabled much more control and understanding of how pressure can affect espresso.
The Alchemy stand was serving both espresso and cascara (a tea made from the cherries of the coffee seeds). Alchemy roast great coffee but also pride themselves on experimenting. To this end, I was served a cascara, which provided a huge caffeine hit, and then I was given what can only be described as a slushy. It was cascara that had been put into a slushy machine, and mixed with a touch of elderflower. The effect was remarkable: caffeinated slushy. Cascara has a good deal of caffeine in, so the buzz was real, but it was from something textured like a solero!
However, the real pinnacle was the coffee that Ozone served up. Two excellent filter coffees, brewed to perfection. One was balanced and spiced, whilst the other was floral and just exquisite. The complexity of the latter coffee was beyond belief and unlike any coffee I’ve ever had. I’ve not yet written about Ozone coffee in full, but after this experience I will be. Ozone had a really cool bar at the festival, where they were serving both brews and espresso. This was definitely the most enjoyable coffee I had that night, though my preference for filter my have skewed this! Despite the commercialness of the Festival, there are some real gems to seek out, and either way it’s a fun event with loads of free stuff to be had and new companies to discover.
The London Coffee Festival is open this weekend and tickets can be bought on the door. If you’re around today or tomorrow, be sure to check out the True Artisan Bar, which has some of the best roasters in London pouring espressos. Also, the UKBCs are on, where you can see baristas from around the country fight it out to be crowned the UK Barista Champion.