Cup North was a Northern Coffee party and they didn’t compromise on the coffee. We’ve never seen so many coffee machines in such a small space and an abundance of roasters all willing to offer the chance to taste their best beans.
Cup North was created by Hannah Davies and Ricardo Gandera off the back of a successful experience organising the Chorlton Coffee Festival in 2013. They created a kick-starter campaign and raised £5,000 of funding to be able to put the event on. The newly funded Leeds Indie Food Festival will no doubt have picked their brains for some ideas and we met Matt, one of the organisers creating this event in Leeds, during our visit on Sunday.
The venue was the ‘Artwork’ building in Salford. Artwork is a fantastic space and was well suited to hosting a coffee festival. It’s all exposed brick work with little booths housing the exhibitors and it felt spacious yet warm and inviting. It might have had something to do with the heat from 20 espresso machines but it worked for us. There was food in a marquee that was located at the front of the building and these exhibitors changed over the two days.
We didn’t know where to start so after a quick walk around to see who was about we checked in with North Star and then started trying espresso from various stalls.
The ‘Derek’ espresso from Bean Brothers out of Huddersfield was a really nicely balanced shot that included coffee from Timor – not something you see everyday. The coffee was surprisingly light in terms of mouth-feel but packed a punch in terms of flavour that we felt would sit well alongside milk. A balance that we are looking to strike a little better ourselves as we look at creating our own bespoke blend for Baltzersen’s.
Clifton Coffee had brought a Kees Van Der Western espresso machine. In my opinion espresso machines don’t come any better looking. Chris from Small St Espresso in Bristol brewed us up a shot of the house blend from Manchester based Icelandic inspired coffee shop Takk. The coffee was primarily of Ethiopian origin so was unsurprisingly very fruity, a bold choice for a house blend. We’d spotted that Foundry Coffee across the hall had some nice ‘Labour and Wait’ aprons like the ones we have for Norse, but they were upstaged by Chris and the team from Clifton Coffee who were sporting embroidered some sweet Sandqvist ‘Ekstedt’ aprons out of Sweden. That is a strong apron game for brewing coffee.
When you are in the industry you can’t help but notice the small things. There was lots of nice branding and kraft paper seemed very much on trend. We dropped in to see Passion Fruit Roasters, a roaster we stocked in Baltzersen’s recently. Their double embossed superthick business card caught Paul’s eye and was later awarded as his best in show!
We stepped out for lunch which consisted burgers in jalapeno corn bread buns and a side of cassava fries. After a brief chat with Mike and Holly from Pannal’s Falcon Speciality Coffee we were back on the coffee trail. Dan from Origin Coffee Roasters, a self-confessed fan of this blog (Hi Dan!!) and the man who first took us through the wonders of brewing aeropres, brewed us up our favourite coffee of the day a black honey processed Lomas Al Rio Costa Rica as an espresso, pour over and latte.
Ben had spotted that Union coffee roasters were doing a latte art competition, and since he has entered the UK Latte Art Champs this year felt it would be a good bit of practise. He dropped his classic hanging heart and went in as top pour of the day. He was later matched by Sam from Upshot Espresso and then came out second best in a throwdown later in the day.
A bit more milling around and then it was our turn to take over from the La Bottega Milanese team (who after a heavy night were flagging a little) on the La Marzocco stand.
Ben dialled in North Star’s ‘Czar Street’ blend V3.0. This seasonal espresso blend is a 70% Ethiopian Rocko Mountain and 30% El Salvador Finca Bosque Lya. What does this mean? Well you have upfront sweetness and floral notes from the Ethiopian beans that is underpinned by the depth of flavour that comes from the more chocolatey plummy flavour of the El Salvador. I prefer this as an espresso but lots of people also enjoy with milk.
La Marzocco are one of the world’s most respected espresso machine manufacturers and supply machines to many of the top coffee shops in the UK and the world. The Linea PB machine that we were using is a relatively new model and was a pleasure to work with. It gives the barista easy access to change many elements of the way the machine extracts the coffee and all at the touch of a button and via a display unit on the centre of the machine.
As good looking as the simple classic lines of the machine are, the most photographed item at the whole event must have been this La Marzocco Strada carved into a pumpkin.
It was 2.30pm and by now virtually everyone in the building was strung out on caffeine. So as it happened we didn’t make a huge amount of coffees. We did play around with the machine, steam a few drinks and chat to people as they came over. It was a good experience but we weren’t able to showcase North Star’s coffee or our own skills all that well!
Once our rather uneventful stint on the stand was over it was time to say farewell to Cup North and all the people we had met.
Our thanks has got to go out to the organisers behind Cup North. If we had any constructive criticism it would be that we needed a bit more of a mix between coffee and a few other related areas; sweet treats, tea, chocolate. Essentially just a few things to break the coffee up and in many ways take the edge off our caffeine overloaded minds.
We hope the exhibitors found it useful and that the organising team will be able to run something similar again next year and grow this Northern Coffee event into something a little bigger for more and more people to enjoy.
If you’ve made it to the end and you’re still thirsty for more you can always check out our recent visit to the Northern Monk Brewery Co. Refectory or Paul and Rob’s visit to the Darkwoods cupping at La Bottega Milanese.