The simplest of exchanges and yet the very mention of caffeine is enough to spark a little excitement. Having been in the coffee business for more years than I can count, I thought it was about time I popped down to the Old Truman Brewery.
Coffee culture has taken the world by storm. Gone are the days where a cup of coffee is just that- a cup of coffee. Cappuccinos are the new cosmopolitans and latte art is a must have. Costa and Starbucks, whilst both popular in their own respective rights, don’t always hit the spot for the coffee connoisseurs (or snobs, whatever you prefer to call us) and as a happy result, independent brewers are the belle de jour.
In retrospect, Costa Coffee was my first foray. My teenage tastebuds had a penchant for their gingerbread lattes, and as dear old Papa was a franchisee, this sickly-sweet goodness was practically on tap. Naturally, they were my first port of call for a job, and I was whipping out my own hand-crafted coffees in no time. Not long after, I progressed into the Head Office before joining the high-stakes game and becoming a franchisee myself. It was short-lived, as last year we dusted our hands of the business altogether.
More recently, I became the latest recruit at Bru Coffee and Gelato, bringing my Social Media expertise to the table. Independent and local, this coffee joint is far more me than your average high street chain.
Have you ever been to the London Coffee Festival? It certainly draws in the London locals. From traders to sellers, drinkers to baristas, it’s so fascinating to see the humble cup of coffee bring so many individuals together under one roof. The conversations are certainly a talking point (no pun intended), purely because of the passion that these curators have for their art. Whether they’re explaining their various blends, or telling you the history behind the brand, it’s incredible that a cup of coffee is elevated beyond morning fuel.
Ah, the photogenic bottle of Cold Brew Coffee that wouldn’t look out of place during the prohibition period. It’s a very refreshing drink, and the lovely folks at Sandows got the caffeine buzz through the queue.
What exactly is it? Cold Brew differs to Iced Coffee, in the way that it’s extracted. With Iced Coffee, the espresso is extracted in the traditional way- hot water pushed through compacted, ground coffee. With Cold Brew, the coffee granules are left to soak in water over a period of time.
The difference is evident in taste. Cold Brew is very light, and doesn’t have that bitter taste that’s so prevalent in Iced Coffee. If you’re looking to dabble in Cold Brew, Sandows is the perfect place to start and stocked by most coffee connoisseurs.
One can hardly discuss coffee without mentioning Grind. With an expanse across the city of London, Grind serves everything from freshly crafted coffee to cocktails. A gritty, city aesthetic, they’re fast becoming a fan favourite in London’s coffee scene.
It was no surprise that their pop-up at London Coffee Festival was buzzing with activity all throughout the day, as they served flat whites to the masses. This is a coffee shop that has truly cracked the code. No detail is too small, and they display a great commercial awareness with great tasting coffee and instagrammable locations. From a business perspective, what Grind has managed to tap into so well is the late-night market. Coffee is no longer reserved for the morning.
My personal favourite is Soho Grind, mainly because of the bright red neon sign that reads French lessons given downstairs; but Shoreditch comes in at a close second with its witty slogans. Feeling fancy? Royal Exchange is right up your street.
There was a time when the coffee scene was all about the chai. Purebred or dirty (with a shot of espresso), it was a guarantee that at least one person in the Starbucks queue was going to order a chai latte. Powder trumps syrup, but Minor Figures have an even better option.
A concentrate that goes back to the basics of chai. A quick whiff perfectly details every single spice, and it’s straight from the leaf- no added ingredients, whatsoever. It leaves you with the most beautiful flavour that warms your heart.
The Minor Figures gang were generous enough with their samples, and I’ve been frothing up my own chai lattes with their organic concentrate since. While you’re at it, pop open a can of their Nitro.
As cold coffee peaks in popularity, one of its many forms is Nitro. For the uninitiated amongst us, this is Cold Brew filled in a keg and poured on tap. The most common way to describe it is describing the look and pour akin to a Guinness.
Brass Monkeys were a friendly bunch, eager to share the story behind the bottle and tap. London locals who pride themselves on the bold flavour thanks to the way they brew the stuff. Their Nitro is bursting with flavour and slips down easy as anything.
Fear not! It might be called the London Coffee Festival, but it extends far beyond into the realms of tea and hot chocolate. One that certainly stood out was Mörk. Still relatively new to the UK, Mörk are chocolate artisans originating from Down Under.
The gentleman was kind enough to concoct up their Original Dark 70% blend, and it was beautifully velvety and rich with flavour, without being a gimmicky, sweet hot chocolate. The minimalist packaging and Scandi vibes are sure to attract a hipster or two, but these fellows are the premium of all hot chocolates.
I suppose it goes without saying, doesn’t it? Spending the day with an ever-changing espresso in my hand, learning about the origins of different beans and just being in such a highly caffeinated environment rather made my day.