Britain’s biggest coffee-culture show turns to… tea!

The Caffe Culture exhibition, the most important trade event in the British hot-beverage industry, has planned a notable new development. The 2011 event will feature an emphasis on tea, in association with the main trade association, the Tea Council.

The Caffe Culture show has always featured some tea, just as it also includes cold drinks, snacks, and various other items which form the stock-in-trade of the average café or coffee house. However, there has been a tendency for some in the beverage trade to think of the show as ‘a coffee event’, whereas it is really ‘a café event’.

The show did have an extreme coffee emphasis in 2010, when it hosted the World Barista Championships, the competition for speciality coffee-making. That dominated the show to such a degree that the organisers, Upper Street Events, have promised ever since to restore a balance of subjects for 2011, and they will now offer tea as ‘a new dimension’ to the show.

This new emphasis on tea may come as a surprise to some coffee enthusiasts, but will be seen by most in the catering and hospitality trades as a recognition that the two beverages both offer great potential.

There is certainly a need for high-quality tea to be promoted in the out-of-home situation. Bill Gorman, chairman of the Tea Council, has pointed out that while tea is the most popular hot drink in the UK, the vast majority of it is still drunk at home, and this is widely believed to be due to the poor reputation of tea served in cafes, hotels and restaurants – in too many cases, the customer is simply served a cheap teabag at an inflated price. By contrast, tea tasters and blenders say that tea is every bit as complex and specialist a subject as coffee, and maybe more so… and quite possibly a more profitable one when the best teas are presented properly.

Several suppliers say they welcome a new recognition of the importance of tea.

Nick Kilby of the Teapigs brand responded to the news by saying: “We’re delighted that an event like Caffe Culture is waking up to the opportunities to really make tea happen out-of-home. We’ve been saying for years that a range of quality teas is an excellent way to satisfy consumers who want more than just coffee, and is a way to attract non-coffee drinkers to venture inside a coffee bar!”

Marco Olmi of Drury Tea and Coffee is both a long-standing supplier of coffee (Drury created the first British espresso used in the Soho coffee bars of the 1950s) and a tea blender.

“This is a very valid move,” he said. “I drink coffee all day, but the potential of tea still excites me, and it should excite the coffee-house trade as well. It will be good to have more talk about how the catering trade can put it across more profitably, because there is so much more that can be done with tea.”

The Caffe Culture show organiser says that his new move reflects the catering trade’s need to handle all beverages professionally and profitably.

“The event is set to deliver several new features in line with the key issues affecting the industry today,” says event director Elliot Gard. “The new additions are designed to meet business owners’ need to survive in the toughest economic conditions in living memory. The UK Tea Council will deliver a programme of presentations and workshops to provide an insight into the potential growth available to businesses looking to attract a greater number of tea drinkers.”

Caffè Culture 2011 will run over two days (18 & 19 May) at the National Hall, Olympia, London. Information: or 0207 288 6191


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