The Coffee House Project, Bristol
Have you ever been to an event that runs so smoothly that you don’t notice how slick it is? It happens very rarely in my experience. So, top marks to Louisa and Sofia organisers of the Coffee House Project and the Bristol Coffee Festival.
It was the first festival I have been to where there were no paper cups or plastic glasses. Attendees were encouraged to bring their own mug. If you forgot to bring one (mine was still sitting on the kitchen table) you simply rented one for the day.
Louisa Parry and Sofia Simou’s 15-year journey includes soaking up the coffee culture in London, Athens and City. But they think there’s nothing like Bristol. This was confirmed many times over during the day as I chatted to attendees and those working on the stands. The venue, the Passenger Shed lends itself perfectly to events (such as the Free From Festival). The high ceilings mean it never seems to get too hot even when very busy.
There were stations where you could rinse out your cup and plenty of places to fill up with water to balance the caffeine.
So, all I had to do was to wander round and sip and sip and sip. Well, I did that too, but also watched competitions, eavesdropped on workshops and nibbled non-coffee items. I was in coffee heaven.
When I visit an independent coffee shop, I always ask for a suggestion as to what coffee to try. This has meant I’ve tried some amazing coffees brewed in many different ways.
At the Coffee Festival the choice could have been overwhelming. Where should I start? There was no one good way to go, I just got stuck in. All the stands were providing samples with the chance to buy a bag of what you fancied. By the sixth or so, I knew I had to stop, but I’d found a firm favourite in Clifton Coffee Roaster‘s Seasonal Espresso EQ V.17 containing 20% Panama Rocky Mountain.f
Thinking twice about where you buy your coffee
It is a shocking fact that the C-price (the value of coffee as a commodity) is below the cost of actually growing and processing coffee. It’s currently around $1 a pound (453 grams) but production costs range from $1.20 to $2.50. The world’s biggest producers, Brazil and Vietnam are huge players in the market accounting for close to half world production and are flooding the market with not so special coffee. The price of coffee is set by the stock market and the supply from these two producers.
Coffee growers cannot make a living by being paid less than it costs to produce it and are often forced to abandon their farms (and contribute to the migration to the USA). Luckily, speciality coffee is not bought and sold in bulk and commands prices 3 to 10 times the C price which ensures the small growers can keep growing. Look for roasters who source their coffee through direct trade. As Origin coffee states “When we direct trade we pay at least 50% over and above Fairtrade prices, without exception. We visit the farmers or mill representatives at least once a year – in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Brazil – we ask questions and we listen to the farmers, to the workers, and to their families. Our partners are committed to environmentally and socially sustainable practices. We know this because we see it with our own eyes”.
Coffee Roasters are making a difference
Once you start looking, you’ll discover that Roasters are supporting initiatives to help businesses wherever they might be located. For example, Bristol roasters Wogan Coffee support Teach a Man to Fish which helps schools create fully functional student-led businesses around the world that are both educational and profitable.
Meanwhile, at home Redemption Roasters are following a different tack. All their coffee is roasted at Aylesbury prison. They have centres at HMYOI Aylesbury; coffee academies in HMP Bullingdon, Spring Hill, and Wormwood Scrubs teaching hospitality and coffee skills to inmates equipping them with a sought after skill when released.
New ways of processing coffee
The way a coffee is processed will affect the taste. When reading labels on the coffees, I came across two processes I knew very little about anaerobic fermentation and yeast fermentation. People are getting very excited about these ways to process as they bring out more complex, clean flavours. Once you start reading about them, you’ll see what a complex matter it is and expertise is paramount.
The coffees I tasted using the anaerobic process had an amazing depth and variety of flavours. The fermented yeast coffee I tasted was very strong and full on but of course, these were just two examples.
It’s also about milk
Do you like milk in your coffee? Did you know there’s no legal definition for free range dairy. If we think about how our cows graze at all, we’d assume they live outside most of the year. Unfortunately up to 15% never get to see the outdoors.
A year ago, Free Range Dairy started a campaign after research discovered coffee drinkers really cared about the milk used in their coffees.
The Free Range Dairy network asks farmers to ensure their cows that are grazed outdoors at least 180 days a year. Analysis of milk samples from herds that are fed large quantities of grass and forage had higher levels of Omega-3, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and other healthy fats, than those in milk from cows fed high levels of grain. If you’d like to purchase Free Range Dairy farm milk it is available in Asda, MidCounties Dairy and Morrisons. Find your nearest location on their map.
Estate Dairy sources milk from farms Somerset. They are researching into how milk reacts with coffee and producing milk that suits their customers requirements and is consistent. All of their milk is tested with a 50:50 ration of light to medium roasted espresso coffee from various London roasters.
Barista Competitions, Coffee Workshops and Talks
I got chatting to a barista whose stand was right next to where a heat of the United Kingdom Barista Championships was taking place. As I had no idea of what the barista had to do, he talked me through what was happening as he’d previously entered the competition.
What pressure the woman taking part was under! There were half a dozen people standing very close to where she was brewing the first coffee ticking off items on clipboards. She gave a commentary on what she was doing and why she’d chosen a particular bean. It was as much about a giving a performance as her skills. They sipped and marked and very soon her 7 minutes were up. Fascinating
Elsewhere, budding baristas were taking part a Latte Art Masterclasses with Dhan Tamang, five times UK Latte Art champion. I watched as two participants demonstrated their latte art skills with Dhan looking on, generous with his praises, giving constructive feedback. No pressure when people are watching you!
Find out more
This was the second such event, so do keep a note in your diary for future Bristol Coffee Festivals.
If you love to read coffee related stories, look out for Caffeine magazine, available in some independent cafes. Information on the C price came from an article by Stuart Ritson, director of European Sales at Cafe Imports in the current issue of the magazine.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with Wogan Coffee’s new Espresso Martini which is fabulous.