Bath to host Britain’s first-ever coffee fair

The first British event for fans of good coffee will be held in Bath, on the weekend of May 15-16. Two of Italy’s biggest coffee brands will be appearing, two Michelin-starred chefs will be appearing, and Britain’s best names in craft coffee will be on hand. Beside displays of the best coffee in the world, there are two major social targets – the organisers have promised to give half of any profits to local good causes, and the event is being used by the coffee trade to show examples of how skilled work in coffee bars can provide a stepping-stone for jobless youngsters.

The biggest consumer coffee festival in the world is the Aroma festival, in the Rocks district of Sydney, which attracts more than 90,000 visitors in a weekend. The Bath event is considerably smaller, but nevertheless is a landmark event in the British catering and hospitality trades.

Although speciality coffee is now an accepted part of everyday life, with a reported twenty million visitors to coffee shops in a week, and something like 10,000 high street coffee bars in business, the coffee industry has never promoted itself to the public – there are no coffee equivalents of TV chefs, and the general public doesn’t know that the world champion ‘barista’ (speciality coffee-maker) is British. It has recently been reported by one of the big coffee brands that many people do not even know that coffee is a natural item which comes from a plant – there are consumers who think it is an industrially-made product!

The show, which will be held on the Bath Recreation Ground, is organised by Linda Donaldson of Geometry PR, a local company with interests in the area’s good causes and associations.

Illy, the Italian brand which has promoted itself around the world as the ultimate in espresso coffee, will be there, and so will Lavazza, the brand which calls itself ‘Italy’s favourite coffee’.

Local celebrityTV chef Martin Blunos, who has won two Michelin stars for two of his restaurants, is opening the festival and will be demonstrating a savoury dish using coffee as an ingredient. Sam Moody, head chef at the Bath Priory will be combining coffee with desserts and petits-fours.

There will be a series of tastings, demonstrations and presentations during the two days of the festival: on the Saturday, Jose Melim, a south-western barista who reached the finals of the UK barista championship in March, can be seen demonstrating espresso coffee-making. Jose has his own company, Lazy Jose, and also works with the Jika Jika coffee house in Bath.

The skill of latte art, which is the creation of patterns on the top of a coffee, has come to be an expected part of coffee presentation, and now has its own championship. Daisy Rollo, a well-known barista trainer, will host a workshop on the subject.

The world-famous Taylors of Harrogate will be travelling to the south-west for the event, and the company’s Mike Riley will give two talks, one on coffee blending, and another on ‘origins’ (the countries in which coffee is grown) and their flavours.

Probably the single most imaginative piece of work surrounding the festival, and one which is expected to have a long-lasting social and community effect, is the work between Metropolitan Kimbo of London and Smart Training, in taking half a dozen young jobseekers and putting them through a barista course. It has long been known that café work has an important role to play in society – although the preparation of espresso coffee is an acknowledged skill requiring training, projects in many part of the UK have discovered that setting up coffee houses can be a constructive way of leading the homeless and jobless into new careers.

The Bath festival is being used as an example – the Metropolitan Kimbo coffee company has taken on six local jobless youngsters, and put them through its barista training course, which is certified by City and Guilds, the national occupational skills organisation. Several Bath hotels, restaurants, and coffee houses have already offered those youngsters interviews or jobs, and the project is being used to show how the coffee trade contributes to society and employment.

A dozen of Bath’s cafes and coffee-houses will also take part in a ‘disloyalty card’ scheme – this is an idea created by London barista Gwilym Davies, the reigning world barista champion, and requires consumers to tour a series of cafes, buying a coffee in each and having a loyalty card stamped every time – a fully-stamped card wins a free drink. The idea is to show the general public just how many places there are to enjoy a great coffee.

Among the names taking part in the Bath Coffee Festival are Illy, Lavazza, Metropolitan, Martin Carwardine (the west-country coffee roaster), Taylersons of Malmesbury (a maker of flavouring syrups for use in cooking and in beverages) and Cafedirect. Although it is a coffee festival, two of the UK’s best names in tea, Suki and Teapigs, are also taking part.

The Bath festival runs on 15-16 May. Enquiries: 0117 929 1900

All the best coffee stories come Boughton’s Coffee House magazine!


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