Last week the biggest Coffee Festival in the UK and one of the biggest in the world opened it's post(ish)-COVID era doors. In previous years entering the Truman Building on Commercial Road in Shoreditch was a challenge to the senses. Overwhelming due to the number of people crammed in, the noise, the heat and the multitude of roasters, equipment manufacturers, competitions and events all happening under one roof.
Not so this year. The organisers did the sensible thing and reduced the numbers of stands, spread them out and reduced the number of tickets. It made for a much more enjoyable experience all round. We didn't book a stand this year but took a day trip up for the first 'trade' day and were lucky enough to get a 2 hour spot on one of our equipment suppliers stands 'Brewed-by-Hand'. It was still hot and noisy buried in a corner in on the ground floor but even that brief 2 hr slot gave us an opportunity to brew two new coffees and meet some new coffee lovers and old friends.
One particular friend became the 'face' of LCF over the last 2 years.
This is Katie from Neighbourhood Coffee in Liverpool. In the background with the chequered shirt is Harley from Cuppers Choice coffee. Both fabulous people. If the camera had swung left a little you would like have seen the Crankhouse stand from 2018. It was so good to meet up again with these wonderful people and feel almost normal. I must admit I was personally hesitant about being in such an environment but it was invigorating and enlivening. The small niche industry of specialty coffee is incredibly friendly and supportive (for the most part) and this year it felt like everyone was breathing a big sigh of relief.
On the stand Jack brewed up two news releases from Federico Pacas's farm Finca San Jose, one a natural Pacamara the other a black honey Pacas. Both were well received and there seemed to be a pretty even split with people's preferences. As is the norm with the festival we did a few swapsies with friends and came home with some beauties to brew and test. One of the things Jack has focused on in his first two months has been QC and in particular colour. A number of our industry leaders and educators including Tim Wendelboe and Morten Munchow have presented firm findings from scientific testing combined with years of experience on how important roast colour is. Morten claims that from a sensory perspective in regard to attributes like acidity, sweetness, body and balance that colour is the single most important data point. He likens it to the 80/20 rule. Colour will get you to 80% regardless of any other roast factors. The 20% is the icing on the cake obtained through manipulating things like end temperature, overall roast time, development time etc. So it's useful to measure other roasters coffees for colour, taste them and assess them as well as measuring our own coffees for assessing quality and consistency. Big thanks to Will Corby at Pact Coffee, Casey at Girls that Grind and Josh at Cuppers Choice for the swaps. Some delicious coffees all round.
One of the highlights was meeting some of the fellow Roaster Wars competitors from last years virtual event. John Thompson who was the head judge and fellow organiser for the comp was there and we talked about getting round 2 up and going. Last year we had 20 roasters from across the UK all roasting the same (unknown) coffee on the same day according to their specific roast plan they'd set in advance and trying to match the sensory characteristics they had predicted through sample roasting. Last year's event got a bit of attention and round 2 is likely to see more roasters involved, possible sponsorship for prizes and green coffee. Early indications are that it will take place in January. It'll be a nice challenge for Jack to get his teeth into.
The other big news in the last week or so is that our Ethiopia Worka Wuri is being served in London's leading specialty cafe Kaffeine in Fitzrovia. Founded by Peter Dore-Smith in 2009 it has always set the highest standard in quality of product and service. Until recently they were solely a single roaster operation using another London icon Square Mile Coffee. Having Crankhouse served here is quite a milestone and Nicholas the head barista gave us some great feedback and has already put a second order in since the retail packs were selling so fast !
Finally, if you're an instagram follower and want to see a dedicated coffee professional in training to try and become the UK Cup Tasters champion then give @nat_barista a follow. Nat is incredibly talented and his posts are entertaining and show the effort it takes to compete at a national level. We're helping Nat out with some preparation coffees this year. GO NAT !