LONDON COFFEE FESTIVAL 2023
As the band Fairport Convention once wrote “who knows where the time goes?” I find myself back again at the London Coffee Festival. It seems only yesterday since I was last here.
Once again, it’s packed with all the chaos caused by an apparently random set of rooms over a number of floors. It’s one of the most unconventional sites in the coffee calendar, but what else would you expect from this East End Über cool part of London on Brick Lane in what once was Truman’s brewery?
Trends and fashions change over the years as the latest geeky kit is rolled out. It never ceases to amaze me how last year’s hot idea can end up in this year’s trash. I’m sure that will resonate with more regular visitors!
However, the one trend that never goes away is the artistic element of the show and it’s something I now always look out for. James Daw was commissioned by the show organisers to come up with some posters for the show. His colourful representations of the classic Bialetti stove top coffee maker are truly joyful and will soon be hanging on the walls of Cooper's cafés here in Jersey.
I was sorry to see no artistic connection with the Waterfall project this year. I managed to purchase a wonderful painting at last year’s show knowing the money was going to a truly worthwhile cause. However, I did think that this year’s very interactive offer by “Hopefully made”, a Shrewsbury based designer and print maker was inspired. It was called “Tethered”, and you were encouraged to make your own mark on what effectively was a blank sheet of wallpaper. Having never done any screen printing before it was a novel experience learning the process.
The concept of “Tethered” is based around re-connecting in a post COVID world where so many connections were fractured and broken. Your print overlaps with the previous print and then the next person overlaps their print onto yours. It’s beautifully simple but deeply resonates. A young woman “tethered” to me, could this be a future form of hitching up!? (I didn’t get her name in case you were asking!)
This surely is the essence of traceability, something I’ve written so much about over the years. That human connection that turns an anonymous commodity into something so much more human. Sharing prosperity, we rather than I.
So on to the show itself which once again did not disappoint and is such a reflection of all those trends you read about in the week-end press. The “home” barista was particularly strong this year. Domestic coffee grinders which have historically been cheap and cheerful are having a make-over; sleek designs and properly constructed internal mechanisms to assist the home brewer get the most out of their coffee. There’s a price tag, however it seems working from home without access to your usual café has prompted many to re-access their own coffee making skills.
The other significant offers this year were around sustainable packaging and alternatives to traditional dairy and gluten based products. There seems to be an infinite variety of options in what is becoming an increasingly crowded marketplace. I only have to look in our own cafés to wonder where it all ends. Infinite choice can be infinitely expensive, both in monetary and space terms. No doubt we will see winners and losers and plenty of consolidation over the coming years as consumers start to settle down on their particular favourites. I do worry that the quality of the core beverage namely coffee is in danger of being forgotten.
And so the day ended with a DJ pumping out a healthy beat over the crowds. Artistic creativity and coffee make happy bedfellows. À la prochaine London Coffee Festival.