London Coffee Festival

By Rikesh Chauhan Monday 16th Apr, 2018

If said with enough conviction, the word ‘coffee’ is a complete sentence.

So goes my new favourite quote. The annual coffee festival was in town this past weekend and being the self-proclaimed flat white connoisseur (read: obsessive) that I am, I naturally had to partake. You could even go as far as saying that my passion for coffee began at the London Coffee Festival a few years back. Like a magpie attracted to shiny things, I was­—and still am—a sucker for good branding. I wandered over to Ace Hotel’s stall (who were serving Bulldog at the time) and after fanboying over their monochrome design and typefaces, I had what was quite possibly the most incredible espresso. The rest, as they say, was history.

It’s worth stating that I was only there on the Saturday (the festival itself ran from Thursday to Sunday) so there’s no doubt I missed a lot of brands, but there’s only so much caffeine I can handle in one go. (I think I clocked out at fifteen espressos over the course of the day, at least half of which were doubles).

On a seasonably (but weirdly unseasonably) warm April afternoon, I headed into the Truman Brewery and made an immediate b-line for Caravan Roasters. Having recently discovered their Jose Francisco blend (my current favourite filter for home), they set the bar high with their double espresso. I prefer light, fruity roasts and this wholeheartedly delivered. It was the closest thing to summer in a shot.

Another favourite of mine, Sandows, debuted their new range of Cold Brew sodas, complete with a ring-toss game. I tried the Spiced version after picking it up at Sourced Market the day before. It had lovely hints of cardamom and orange, but I wasn’t blown away on the whole. (It’s worth noting here that I am a diehard fan of their cold brew, so a sparkling version was always going to raise an eyebrow or two). I decided to give the Citrus flavour a go at the festival, and boy did it deliver. Punchy, well-balanced and everything a cold brew soda should be. I’d highly recommend it.

After perusing a host of different brands, including the buzz-worthy Pranachai (it doesn’t come close to homemade chai, mind, but as a standalone drink is quite delicious), Far Side (a new cold brew brand), MYLK, as well as my old friends the Arancini Bros, my eyes lit up as soon as I saw Berlin’s very own, Five Elephant. They showcased a few filters with the Colombian Los Idolos coming up trumps for me. If you’re ever in Berlin (Kreuzberg or Mitte specifically) be sure to make your way there for coffee and cheesecake. Don’t forget Barn either—arguably the best coffee in Europe, and they’re stocked in Sourced Market for all you Londoners.

No coffee festival is complete without the legendary Allpress, and their neighbours (at the festival at least), Origin. Two of the best coffee shops in London were consistent as ever. I had a cortado from Allpress (because they typically only make flat whites with a single shot, which I find too milky) and Origin’s La Primavera blend as a single espresso. Badass.

Just when I thought I reached peak coffee tasting, I wandered past the Girls Who Grind Coffee. Casey and Fi – natives of New York and Melbourne respectively – were on-hand to deliver a killer espresso with equally killer branding to boot. Launched to tackle the extremely male-dominated coffee industry, everything they source is from female producers and farmers, as well as those who work to support them.

With my favourite espressos of the day being my first (by Caravan) and last (by Girls Who Grind Coffee), it was a fittingly poetic way to see out London Coffee Festival for another year.