Well it happened, and I survived. Not only did I survive but I've come away from four amazing days completely exhausted, physically and mentally, but equally inspired and exhilarated. I'd been to LCF on the trade day in the previous few years and had some idea of what it was going to be like. Also, I'd spoken to Guy the owner of Cast Iron Coffee Roasters who took a stand in the La Marzocco roasters village in 2016. It was his first time and he was able to give me some great pointers on how to survive and make the most of the experience. I think I forgot every word he said to be honest but I'm grateful of his advice nonetheless.
I had a few helpers along the way. My No 1 fan and chief life support agent Becca drove up with me on Wednesday to big old London Town to help me unload. Even though the La Marzocco sponsored roasters village came supplied with a Linea Mini and a Volcano grinder I wanted to take my EK43 for filters and a whole bunch of swag to sell. I took 130 retail packs and wish I'd taken more. We were met in LCF by one of our besties Stef. She now works in London having moved from Exeter last year but admitted that the whole East end thing was a little foreign to her too.
I'd been allocated a 3pm unload slot in Ely's Yard, the main trade access point for the Truman Brewery. Clearly when we arrived at 2.40 there was little chance we were going to get anywhere near the Yard for a long long time. So, we snuck into a 5 min loading zone and got to it. Probably 20 mins later we were all unloaded and no parking ticket ! Bonus.
We got distracted by a a quick stop at JuJu's bar in the yard which to be honest was a nice way to setup the next 4 days of madness. I think the £7.85 for a 330ml bottle of beer was a little steep but heh, when in rome.. bla.
Then the big guns arrived in the form of my friend Tony Isaacs who is the head barista at Exeters finest, The Exploding Bakery. Tony had taken a couple of days holiday to help me out and I could not have hoped for a better wing-man. Calm, enthusiastic, organised and professional. He represented Crankhouse better than I could ever had hoped for. The fact that he was doing me a favour made me feel honoured. A great guy to spend four intense days with. We laughed a lot, shared delicious coffee and food as well as a lot of doughnuts.
Thursday morning 8.15am was all about getting the stand setup looking cool with a functional layout of the espresso machine and grinders with enough room to brew filters and provide service to customers. Then it was a matter of dialling in the Espresso which I left in Tony's capable hands, and dialling in two filters for the day on the EK. Just as important was the meet and greet with the other guys in the La Marzocco roasters village. Horsham Coffee Roasters from Brighton, Outpost Coffee from Nottingham and St Martins Coffee from Leicester. A fabulous bunch of guys and we all started swapping Espresso's and filters during the dialing in period. We started Thursday absolutely hyped on caffeine and the doors hadn't even opened. The fabulous St Johns doughnuts we picked up on the way in and scoffed before doors-open became our morning ritual.
The 'trade' days were supposed to be the quiet 'serious' days. Quiet my arse. I do recall speaking to a huge number of people who seemed genuinely interested in the Crankhouse brand. I gave out lots of business cards. took a few and served a whole bunch of espresso's and filters. Thursday ended at 5pm and we'd got through pretty well. The biggest conundrum then presented itself. Which party to go to ? Nude Coffee had a party at 6pm, DR Wakefield green importer likewise and InterAmerica the same. We opted for Nude since we's had a personal invite from the head roaster Kane Statton and 6pm sharp I was sipping on a rather nicely presented Cosmopolitan. Followed by another and then a Vodka, Lime and Soda, beer etc. The volume was loud and the people interesting making for a fun night. Tasty dinner at St Johns Bread & Wine with WIll from Roastworks Coffee and we were done. Day 1 over. The next 3 days were pretty much a repeat of the first with the exception of the La Marzocco parties Friday and Saturday nights, the latter being the big 90th Birthday party. Tony and I snuck out for some delicious grub at PittCue on Saturday.
It felt overwhelming at times. Like a whirlwind that we were caught in the middle of with our sole objective being to make it through to the other side alive. But it was so much fun. So many cool people around to share the experience with. A number of people have asked me already if it was 'worth it'. Financially only time will tell. I may pick up some stella wholesale accounts that will cover the LCF costs tenfold. Then again I may not. From a personal perspective YES. It was well worth it. It's the big game and Crankhouse was there.
I've already asked to be considered for a space next year.