The number of coffee shops in the UK has been on the rise for many years now, and with it there is growing consumer base who like to explore coffee – a good place to do this is one of the several coffee festivals that have emerged across the country. The most well-known, the London Coffee Festival has been running for several years, but there are others that have emerged in recent years and have proved very popular, and generating a further rise in coffee tourism.
As I have mentioned before:
“There are a growing number of coffee festivals which have become important events for stakeholders in the café industry, not just for those in the trade in terms of equipment and coffee, but for baristas looking to compete in competitions (which are often held at these festivals), or to find out about new equipment, roasters looking to display their coffee offerings, to consumers seeking to find out more about what’s happening in the coffee world. While these festivals are places where people enthusiastic and passionate about coffee get the immerse themselves in all things coffee, they are about much more than coffee with usually a range of exhibitors and activities related to other food and drinks too.” (Ferreira, 2017)
On 1-2nd July, Birmingham hosted its first ever coffee festival in the Custard Factory in the Digbeth area of the city centre. The creation of the Birmingham Coffee Festival reflects a growing coffee scene in the city, with a rising number of both independent and chain coffee shops, and coffee roasters too. It was great to see a whole range of businesses from the region (and beyond).
While for some people coffee festivals is about trying different coffees, there is usually much more on offer –- from cuppings, roasting demonstrations and latte art demonstrations to live music performances. And there was more than coffee on offer too from Henny & Joes Chai, Doisy & Dam chocolates chocolate to Cowardy Cow Bakes with a range of cakes on offer.
This festival was held in a great space, one floor, with easy access, and a number of street food vendors outside too. We were there quite early in the day, and to start with we had lots of room to move around (something that you don’t really get in the London Coffee Festival), but even when it got busier the space was well laid out that it didn’t feel cramped. We didn’t get a chance to talk to all the businesses that were there, but we managed to talk to plenty, and all were incredibly friendly and keen to talk about their business. This felt like the friendliest coffee festival I have been to. It was also the first time I’d taken a baby to a coffee festival – she was made to feel welcome, and generally seemed to enjoy smiling at lots of people and taking in all the action. It was pleasing to see quite a few families with young children there, showing how coffee festival can have a diverse audience.
As usual with coffee festivals, there is lots of coffee on offer to try. I had learnt my lesson from a previous festival and did not have any beforehand. A few highlights were:
Danielle’s Coffee, a company based in Shropshire, had a range of coffees on offer. We tried a couple by filter (the premium blend and Chetton village blend), and ended up buying some of the premium blend after finding to be on the favourites of the festival. We tried a really smooth Guatemalan coffee from Quarter Horse Coffee Roasters (based in Birmingham), and then a Kenyan coffee from Cart Wheel Café and Roastery based in Nottingham. We also tried samples from Urban Roast Coffee Co, Method Coffee Roasters, Outpost Coffee Roasters and Java lounge.
In the end, I didn’t get around to the stand from 200degrees in part because their coffee shop in Birmingham is already one of my favourites and I’ve tried quite a few of their coffees, although I’ve been told their Nitro cold brew that was on offer was good.
Readers of this blog will know that I have an interest in sustainability in the coffee shop industry and it was great to see both Ecoffeecup (reusable coffee cups) and Vegware (eco-friendly packaging) with stands there.
Something I’ve not seen done before at a coffee festival, was the ‘Best of Birmingham’ box which included several bags of coffee beans and vouchers for a number of the companies on display (Urban Roast Coffee Co, Outpost Coffee, Cole & Mac, 200degrees and Java lounge), a great way to try a range of the coffees on offer.
Overall, it seems to Birmingham Coffee Festival has been a great success with lots of visitors over the two days. As I said earlier, it was great to see the Midlands displaying some of the best it has in coffee and coffee shop related business, and I hope to see it return in future years.