[Huriyah Quadri | Print Editor]
The London Coffee Festival has recently risen in popularity with almost 35,000 attendees this year. Trident Media paid the Festival a visit to see what the fuss was about and for an excuse to drink ridiculous amounts of coffee.
We were welcomed by the wafting aroma of delicious coffee, or so I’d like to think, my nose was actually blocked due to the freezing weather. Surprised to find children about – and secretly hoping to see some buzzing from a caffeine high while also accepting my place in hell – we made our way past the not-yet-packed-out crowd of people towards the T2 stall where I squealed over the Mint Matcha Tea.
Matcha is quite pricey and I would usually suggest hunting around for less costly alternatives. However, T2 definitely impressed me enough to consider their price reasonable for the quality and flavour of the drink. The mint flavouring was a welcome bonus.
The venue had filled out by the time we finished our matcha shots and we got lost a couple of times before we finally figured out the floor plan. In hindsight, we should have just read the map or something.
Despite the highly suggestive name, The Coffee Festival was not only about the coffee. In fact, the venue was packed full of stalls offering an array of teas, fizzy drinks, chocolates and even ice-cream (it was called the “Ice-cream of Gods” and I can confirm, it was heavenly. Bless you Hotel Chocolat.)
Starbucks had a whole section to themselves and the baristas were busy entertaining people with colourful concoctions of their new Teavana range – arriving in stores this summer! The Teavana iced teas were a hit, I tried a few flavours blindly and really enjoyed them. The hot teas, on the other hand, could be better; they tasted weak (I’d stick to the iced teas).
A few shots of espresso later, I found myself coaxed into a seat ready to participate in Union’s Flavour Challenge. I had also managed to burn my tongue on hot jasmine tea at this point so I was super ready for the Challenge, despite the requirement for a fair level of competency in the nose and tongue department.
The Challenge involved smelling and tasting four different flavoured varieties of coffee to determine their flavour category. I think it’s a little obvious that I didn’t win. I managed to get one correct and had to stop myself from exclaiming: “but lemon is a fruit too!”
Following the Flavour Challenge, I distracted myself and confused my guest by trying to hunt down the one stall I had researched before arriving at the Festival: Chalo. It was ultimately my guest who found the stand and I awkwardly realised that coffee makes me hallucinate (that stand was NOT there when I last checked!)
Chai latte has gained quite a name for itself not-so-recently. In spite of its popularity, I have been disappointed by the high street versions because they don’t do justice to the chai served in South Asia. Chalo’s website claims that they respect the authenticity of the recipe and promises to deliver a “hug in a mug” (wild claims, I know). So I was interested in trying out some of Chalo’s chai lattes to see how they’d compare to the rest of the failed versions I’ve tried.
I don’t know what kind of dark magic Chalo is running on but I was certainly blown away by how authentic the Masala Chai Latte tasted. The hug in a mug claim is no joke! My guest especially enjoyed the Lemongrass and Cardamom Chai Lattes and I scooped up some packs to take away with me. If you’re looking to enjoy a chai latte in all its glory, you’re going to have to make a trip to London as this Belgian company only has one outlet in the UK. Alternatively, you can just buy their products online to have a go at making them at home (I did this and got the same results!)
The Festival runs annually and the freebies make up for the price of the ticket; it’s an event you can attend and enjoy on a student budget. We had a great time sampling a ridiculous range of drinks from brands we may have otherwise remained unaware of and the caffeine-fuelled atmosphere made for very pleasant interactions with everyone we met. Either that or we were too buzzed out to notice anything else.
How do you like your coffee? Tweet us your recommendations and coffee selfies at @TridentMediaUK