Picture credit: The London Coffee Festival
Coffee: just part of the daily grind – or is it? The London Coffee Festival has once again brought together leading distributors in speciality coffee and technology for its ninth annual festival.
Coffee is a huge cultural phenomenon in London – something that is hard to go unnoticed when the most promising and innovative artisan coffee makers are concentrated together at the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch every year. This festival has proven to be a bright, diverse and fast-paced three days. Occurring every year in Spring, it is an unmissable event for discerning coffee consumers, with a turnout of over 30,000 people this year. Over the last decade, the speciality coffee scene in London has grown extensively and now London is one of the leading cities in the world for coffee innovation. If you look properly, you will find something to suit your tastes in a London coffee shop. Most commercial coffees fall below the ‘speciality’ standard, and most of us are drinking bad coffee. The festival redefines what it is to be a coffee snob, and seems to say quite firmly: be proud of it! Don’t settle for second rate!
This year, more than any year previous, there has been a large focus on innovation and sustainability – which are hot topic issues right now. With a rise in coffee consumption, a rise in waste seems inevitable. Due to the current cultural milieu of sustainable business practice (the veto on plastic straws is a poignant example), events like the coffee festival contribute to wide spread consumer awareness of business practices. Sustainability is not just offered as an alternative at this point, but rather forms the very nexus of the functioning of the industry, as shown through the practices of the festival itself. The impact of this cultural shift should not be underestimated; for example, British people on average use 7.7 billion plastic bottles of water a year. This year, The London Coffee Festival has replaced plastic rimmed cups with compostable alternatives (from the distributor Decent Packaging), which is actually a huge relief, as by 2pm every bin in view was full of empty sample cups from the sheer excess of coffee intake (of which I was a very willing and caffeinated participant). The impact of switching to sustainable systems is staggering, and finding new ways of being sustainable has become a part of the ethos of a large number of small businesses and independent coffee shops. The London Coffee Festival itself serves as a three day microcosm of the coffee economy – and wonderfully, the 7 tonnes of coffee grounds discarded at the festival will also be composted. Such initiatives contribute to the very real possibility of a thriving circular economy for the coffee industry in the near future.
We may associate coffee consumption with the hectic life style of modernity, something to be had to wake us up, or to get us through the day – we might as well inject caffeine directly into our blood stream! One event at the festival aimed to make coffee lovers rethink our approach to what is for many a daily ritual: The Mindful Coffee Tasting Experience. It was a standout for the festival this year, brand new for 2019. The multi-sensory experience comes from the Mindful Coffee Movement, which aims to approach coffee holistically, where processes of crafting a cup of coffee can become part of enjoying the drink itself. It is about noticing the smell, the heat, the texture, the intricacies of colour – it is about how milk changes the colour, the heat, and the nuances of flavour. It really aids in an overall enjoyment and satisfaction, and can produce the intended effects of a more general mindfulness: a release from anxiety and stress. The event was presented by Just Breathe London and London Coffee Roasters.
The London Coffee Festival was a wonderful display of the dedication and talent of thousands of passionate people. The most important thing to be taken away from the experience is to think about the coffee we drink. I know more about coffee now – from tree, to seed, to its various green, yellow, and brown incarnations through roasting, to its grinding (fine, thick, gravelly). Coffee is subject to change and development, and we continue to change it by consuming it. As consumers, the industry will change with us. First and foremost, coffee drinking is to be enjoyed. So however you do have it, enjoy it!
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor
* Sarah Taylor, ‘Why Sustainability Makes Business Sense’, Retrieved from: https://www.londoncoffeefestival.com/Journal/March-2019/Why-sustainability-makes-business-sense [accessed 31 March 2019].