From 12th-15th April, the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch hosts the London Coffee Festival. I had originally expected not to attend this year due to our new arrival, but in a last minute change of plans decided to go with my other little research assistant.
I was particularly interested in seeing how the festival addressed issues of sustainability this year, in the hope of finding some more innovative ideas, strategies and products that might contribute to my most recent research project. Aside from the research I was excited to get to meet lots of people from coffee related businesses that I have either been in touch with, or have been reading about. The festival seemed bigger than ever, spread over four floors with more exhibits and stalls than I could ever possibly hope to visit in one day.
Now I can drink coffee again I was excited to acquire some more beans for the household, and in particular I’ve wanted to try Redemption Roasters (a social enterprise based in Aylesbury prison designed to provide young offenders with skills in the coffee industry), and Girls Who Grind Coffee (an all-female coffee roasting company seeking to give a voice to women in the coffee industry) so I headed to these first.
As you’d expect at a coffee festival there is copious amount of coffee on offer – you have to learn to pace yourself. One year I made the mistake of visiting a couple of coffee shops before the festival (for research purposes of course), but this meant I was already quite caffeinated by the time I got there. I have learnt my lesson! That said, I did still get to try quite a few different coffees, and now have a long list of roasters that I will be ordering from over the coming months. In addition to lots of great roasters from around the UK such as Neighbourhood Coffee, Outpost Coffee Roasters, Square Mile and Union I also got to try some international roasters – two of the favourites were Koppi (Sweden) and Five Elephant (Germany). I should have bought some coffee from these roasters while I was there, but got distracted and forgot!
In addition to the floors full of exhibitors there is a fully packed programme of events from coffee tastings, latte art demonstrations and panel discussions to coffee competitions. It’s easy to see why the festival has to run for several days. These festivals really are a great opportunity to get to meet some of the people who make the coffee industry what it is today, whether this is a coffee business owner, roaster or barista. In addition to get to see all the new and exciting coffee related offerings, the festival is also a chance to try all sorts of other things too – lots of different specialty food and beverage companies. My research assistant was a particular fan of the Lotus Biscoff and Cakesmiths stands where were given some samples.
As I mentioned before one of the main things I was exploring at the festival was businesses with products and innovations related to sustainability. It was good to see that the festival provided very visible recycling points for coffee cups around the festival (supported by Simply Cups and Seda International) but also there was a wide range of reusable coffee cup companies present and companies with a focus on more sustainable packaging.
KeepCup had a very bright and colourful stand as usual, I resisted from buying another KeepCup.
Showcasing their efforts in the circular economy, the rCUP demonstrated their cups made from discarded paper coffee cups. They marketing material suggests they are 100% leak proof which might make these particularly attractive to consumers – some reusable cups I’ve been experimenting with are definitely not leak proof.
Ecoffee Cup returned to the festival again with their wide range of very colourful cups made from natural bamboo fibre – I picked up one of these last year!
I also got a chance to chat with the team from Huskup which has cups made from natural risk husks, making these cups plastic free. These were nice and light, and decided to acquire one of these to try.
There were several other companies with reusable cup options on offer too including Sol Cups and Therma Cup. The London Coffee Festival shop itself was selling branded Sol Cups and since I didn’t yet have a glass reusable coffee cup decided to get one of these too.
Many of the coffee roasters around the festival had their own branded reusable cups, and it was encouraging to see lots of these being sold and used at the festival.
More generally there were packaging companies such as London Bio Packaging who were keen to talk about their efforts in producing sustainable packaging. They have an extensive catalogue of products in two key ranges the Sustain range (renewable and compostable) and the Revive range (recycled and recyclable). Simply Cups the collection and recycling service also had an exhibit too.
There was even a panel discussion in ‘The Lab’ about Paper Cup recycling and the circular economy the Paper Cup Alliance, Seda UK and Simply Cups.
Overall, it felt like there was a greater awareness of the need for sustainability in the coffee shop industry particular related to coffee cups and packaging, from the festival organisers themselves , but also from the range of related business that were exhibiting there. As always I fully enjoyed my trip to the London Coffee Festival, meeting relevant industry contacts and making some new valuable connections, discovering new coffees and related products and experiencing lots of what the coffee industry has to offer.