Coffee

New York Coffee Festival 2015

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

About New York Coffee Festival

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. 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.  There were also a handful of international roasters there, looking to make an impression. And that they did, we got to taste so many stellar coffees on all sorts of manual and automatic devices.  An incredible Kenyan espresso. A single origin coffee roasted and brewed three different ways (Chemex, cold brew, espresso).  A cold brew made with condensed milk and a homemade vanilla sweet cream. And that’s just to name a few!

The Scene at New York Coffee Festival

They held the New York Coffee Festival in the 69th Regiment Armory, which is an absolutely beautiful, classic building. The main booths on the festival floor 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 decor, all overlooked by the music stage.

The Competition

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 also set them apart.  This was a multi-disciplinary barista marathon, appropriately named the Coffee Masters.  It was a mix of incredible roasters serving coffee not only from the area, but also from other countries.  It was a tasty coffee showcase with great originality and creativity.  Delicious, fresh, local food options were also available throughout the whole event.  There also was live music and art showcases.

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.  It brought competitors in from as far away as Australia and 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 Lab

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.  Topics ranged 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. Since it was tucked away in the heart of the Armory, it gave the audience the ability to unplug, relax, and learn in a focus-friendly environment.

Until next time, New York Coffee Festival

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.  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.  On the floor you could see the city’s best minds flex their creative muscles to put out products that were not only scientifically sound, but also 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.