Report on Caffe Culture 2008

Caffe Culture Theatre  Wow ! an arena, where you will probably be served the best coffee in London and probably the UK over two days and the best part, it’s all free, as top baristi and espresso machine suppliers and coffee roasters vie against one another to try and sell you their coffee. Caffe Culture basically brings together all the major suppliers and players of the UK coffee shop scene covering all the supply chains – so if you were thinking of setting up a coffee shop, you will in summary meet everyone that can help you provide all the essentials (coffee, coffee equipment, non-coffee products, smoothie machines, tea, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, paper cups, porcelain cups, graphic design, cafe furniture, publications, software, etc) including consultants that will train your staff and teach you how to draw up a business plan. As I mentioned in my previous post announcing the event, this was my third year attending. This year, the event was even better and bigger, spreading over two floors for the first time in the Kensington Olympia Hall. The bottom floor was predominantly dominated by equipment, auxiliary items and coffee suppliers including two stages, one focusing on food preparation and the other on lectures on the coffee business. The second floor had a few other suppliers but was dominated by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) events, where there were workshops and most excitingly of all, the UK Latte Art Championships and some coffee tasting sessions. Sadly, I missed some of the competitions – there was just too much going on, as I busied myself with exploring some business ideas and attending 3 lectures; (i) Why a great barista will make a difference ? (ii) planning and designing a cafe including drawing up a business plan and most excitedly of all, for me anyway (iii) Latte Art – improving your technique. For the last one, I was coached by Stephen Morrissey – Irish National Barista Champion and Soren Stiller Marcussen – Danish National Barista Champion (a favourite for the WBC 2008). In summary, there was about 30 minutes of theory and an hour of practice. Stephen guided my hand to help me pour my first rosetta (below). My First Rosetta  I also got to use a Mahl Konig coffee grinder to grind espresso and prepare espresso using a commercial machine for the first time, on the La Spaziale, who seem to be making a big impression on the commercial espresso coffee machine scene by sponsoring the event, as their machines were predominant all over the event. La Spaziale MachineStill with La Spaziale, they followed their trend from the past two years by always getting the UK National Barista Champion to offer free coffees using their machines. This year, it was Hugo Hernod, owner of Relish Deli in Cornwall, UK, current national champion, who I bothered daily with my regular dose of cappuccinos in the morning and espresso in the afternoon. After all, if you can be served by the best for free, why not go ahead, especially as Hugo was always willing and he seemed like a nice guy – very modest too. Here’s a pic of one of the coffees I got to drink prepared by him.  La Spaziale Hearts  Wandering along the foyer, I got to spot a really beautiful looking machine, the Mistral. It’s actually built by La Marzocco, but the body design is done by a designer and sold by a company called Andronicas World of Coffee  who now have a coffee shop in the famous London department store, Harrods. Of course, as soon as I saw it, I stopped and took some pictures. La Marzocco Mirage  For more, check http://www.andronicasworldofcoffee.com/ On the coffee beans side, I got to sample some nice espresso from Union Hand-Roasted, whose account manager. Keith Love, was really pleasant as he took a lot of time to explain their philosophy. I already have them down on my main website as a valuable link for setting up a coffee shop. In any case, Union have gone through a major image change with nice bright exciting colours like purple.  They have now started supplying supermarket chains, but I was assured that the freshness of the roasted coffee on the supermarket shelves were keenly monitored Union Espresso  For training and further planning, I met briefly with Gayle Reed of the London School of Coffee (www.londonschoolofcoffee.com), whom I was pleasantly surprised to learn, offer all types of coffee and barista training, including planning and more importantly of course, for me in any case, are willing to come to your premises abroad to teach you all about coffee. For me, this was a bonus as I am currently exploring options for places like Dubai. Also on the training side, the Coffee Community, whose managing director, Paul Meikle-Janney, gave the really insightful lecture on design and planning that I attended, are also a good bet for providing all sorts of training and advice from idea, concept to implementation. Check them out on www.coffeecommunity.co.uk On more equipment, I finally got to see for the first time, the famous Clover machine, which boast a very unique method for brewing coffee. At present it retails for about the equivalent of $10,000 in the UK. There’s been a lot of noise about the Clover, not just about it’s price, but because the method manages to bring out some delicate flavours from coffee. I must admit, I sampled a Rwandan blend from the Clover and it was really easy on the stomach – it went down really smoothly and the brewing time was just a minute. Clover  The Clover is getting quite popular in the USA, particularly with top independent cafes, where the rave is about selling coffees like wine, with $8 for a cup of coffee, sourced from a special farm. However, the Clover company has just been bought by… wait for it… Starbucks. Apparently, one of the first pioneers of Clover in America is so disgusted by the sale, that they will stop using the Clover machine. I wonder if they are willing to sell their Clover machine to me then for a few $$$. Next to the Clover, I also spotted this machine, made by Neuhaus Neotec. Neotec  It’s a smaller roaster designed to handle small batches of green coffee and has over 200 programmes that can be pre-programmed fo
r different types of coffee. Its appeal, promoted by the saleswoman is that it can impressive customers in a local cafe, where your customers can see coffee being roasted freshly before their very eyes. In any case, some expert roasters will let you know that you need to know what you are doing with roasting beans before popping them into an automatic roaster and pressing a button. As I’m now very conscious of this post getting very long (it’s my longest to date)- I’m trying to make up for not blogging for 2 weeks, I think I’ll stop here, but just wanted to “sign” off with…  La Marzocco Sign  You can view more pictures from Caffe Culture 2008 under my flickr account, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lameen/

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