Royal New York

New York Coffee Festival

2015
To answer your first question: no, you didn’t miss the New York Coffeefest. This is the New York Coffee Festival, which is an entirely different event held by Allegra Events. The event has been held in London and Amsterdam, so it was only a matter of time before they made to the states. We’re so glad they did!

To give you some background, these events have had incredible success in Europe (they had around 24,000 people attend their London Coffee Festival), and they’re growing every single year. The event is a mixture of culture, art, foodie attractions, and-of course-coffee! Lots and lots of coffee. And it wasn’t just a couple of unknown vendors handing out drinkable samples; the place was bursting at the seams with some of the best roasters in the country-plus a couple from outside the country-that were looking to make an impression. I had some incredible Kenyan espresso, a single origin coffee roasted and brewed three different ways (Chemex, cold brew, espresso), cold brew made with condensed milk and a homemade vanilla sweet cream, and great coffee on all sorts of manual and automatic devices.

The New York Coffee Festival was held in the 69th Regiment Armory, which is an absolutely beautiful, classic building. The floor was structured so that the main booths had real walls and just enough room to spill into the aisles a bit without worry of overcrowding. This layout had an inherent intimacy to it; it made you feel as if you were stepping out of one room and into another-as opposed to just strolling through a string of tents-and some of the exhibitors really took advantage of this in memorable ways. The Village area was a bustling hotbed of activity that had small set ups, but also held some of the most interesting-and delicious-options for patronizing. And this was all crowded around the warm little center, affectionately named Central Park, which was a spacious lounge area with couches, arm chairs, and cozy décor, all overlooked by the music stage.

These Coffee Festival events also feature some distinct differences, outside of the layout and aesthetics, that separates it from a lot of the other events we’ve been to in the past: their own unique competition, one that was a multi-disciplinary barista marathon, appropriately named the Coffee Masters; a mix of incredible roasters serving coffee not only from the area, but also from other countries; tasty coffee showcases with great originality and creativity; delicious, fresh, local food options available throughout the whole event; live music and art showcases; and on top of all of this, they were somehow able to maneuver licensing laws to serve alcohol (espresso martinis, craft beer, and top shelf spirits). This also carried into the Coffee Masters competition, as the rules-unlike the rules in the Barista Championships-did not exclude alcohol as an ingredient in the contestant’s specialty drinks. This of course led to some pretty memorable coffee-based cocktail creations.

Though hearing the Coffee Masters over the live music and general hustle and bustle of New York City coffee lovers was difficult at times, the competition was fierce and had brought competitors in from as far away as Australia (spoiler alert: he won)! The great mix of practical skills (cupping memory and order fulfillment) and personal creativity (latte art and specialty drink) did well to ensure that the winner of the title was a well-rounded coffee professional, not just a charismatic, well-prepared barista with access to great coffee (which is not to diminish the skills necessary to compete in other competitions). It was a feat not many coffee professionals could consider pulling off.

The final brushstroke of the New York Coffee Festival portrait was the Lab program that went throughout the weekend. The Lab included presentations, panels, and hands-on training on a variety of topics ranging from “The Art and Science of Consistently Good Coffee” to “From 2 to 20: Expanding retail and knowing when and where to grow” all the way to “Importing: The Art of Long Distance Relationships”. It was a collaboration of some of the best minds in coffee, and it was tucked away in the heart of the Armory so as to give the audience the ability to unplug, relax, and learn in a focus-friendly environment.

Overall, this was a really fulfilling experience. This event showcased a lot of facets of the coffee industry that most people don’t get the chance to see, and it definitely showed how far we’ve come over the last decade. The formal competition happened in the Coffee Masters, but it was completed as you walked the floor, watching the city’s best minds flex their creative muscles to put out products that were not only scientifically sound, but were distinct to their company. If this year’s show is a hint of things to come in the following years, I’m excited that we had the chance to be there on the ground floor.

Till next year,

Dave Planer

Anthony Chango