A Lot More than Lattes: The London Coffee Festival Shows a Diversifying Market


During a trip to Los Angeles to soak up the sun, Christopher Beach had a bright idea. While in town, he enjoyed drinking the Cold Brew that is a big part of Los Angeles Third Wave Coffee scene.

“I went to Los Angeles, and everyone was drinking cold brews, and I tried it,” Beach says, “and I enjoyed it, and I thought why can’t we have this in the UK?”

His work on New North has been a labor of love but, the end product was one of the highlights of the 2018 London Coffee Festival from April 12-15, which included 250 gourmet coffee and food stalls. As well as competitions, workshops, art exhibitions and DJs.

New North takes its beans very seriously. There is no dairy, no sugar and it is cold brewed for 18 hours. The brands aesthetic and its clean packaging are as smooth as the coffee out the can.

Nitro Cold Brew is coffee speak for coffee grinds which are soaked in cold water. The resulting product has a clearer taste (and far more caffeine) than traditionally brewed coffee. “Nitro” refers to the nitrogen injected into certain cold brews. This gives the drink a smooth and frothy head like a beer. For me, it has the added benefit of being carbonated pushing me more to sip than to chug.

Which is why I considered purchasing the “NitroPress™” which allows anyone who can afford the refill cartridges the ability to make nearly unlimited nitro cold brew at home without a large laborious machine.

Coffee ideas have been hopping the Atlantic for decades. At some point in the 1950s, Lino Meiorin an Italian American re-introduced the Café Late to the Anglosphere via Caffe Mediterraneum in Berkeley, CA. From there, it took over the world influencing the development of the related “Flat White” in New Zealand and Australia. That drink came to the United Kingdom in 2005, and a decade later Starbucks was introducing it to America.

We are a long way from when good coffee meant expresso bars. Indeed the London Coffee Festival had something for everyone tea, coffee, expresso, and cold brew. All neatly packed under the roof of the Old Truman Brewery, once home to England’s largest breweries.  The Old Truman Brewery opened in 1666 or fifteen year’s after the opening of The Turk’s Head, England’s first coffee house opened in a building which is today roughly a 30 minute walk away.

Much has changed in the evolving coffee and café beverage market. Though it can be hard to note clear trends in an increasingly diversified coffee market, functionality seems to be something a growing number of people are seeking out in addition to a flavorful morning beverage.

The turmeric latte is one of these. It is a flavour most people associate with their local curry house the drink was rebranded at some point as a Golden Latte and appears to be at or approaching peak popularity.

“This is the year of turmeric and wellness products in beverage form,” says Jason Salter the Operations Director for Freshpac Teas & Coffees as expresso machines give off pneumatic noises in neighbouring booths.

“Matcha tea is well established, and turmeric is growing as well. An increasing number of people are looking for café indulgent non-coffee options. Those options used to be quite limited but, now there has been a resurgence.”

South Africa based Super Latte offers many healthy and functional drinks.

Michelle Legge of Super Latte hopes to grow the popularity of these drinks in the United Kingdom. The Super Latte product line includes a Golden Latte, a Red Velvet Latter  (beetroot and fairtrade cocoa) and Matcha Mint (the Japanese).

“We see the development of functional algae lattes and mushrooms latte by some companies, and we are looking into developing our mushroom later,” she says.

I’m not sure when we will see a seaweed or blue algae latte at the local Starbucks. But, it will be oddly fitting as Starbucks originally had a novel nautical them. The company’s original logo original logo featured a topless Mermaid, and the company’s name comes from the character in the Moby Dick.

Part of that epic novel takes place off Cape of Good Hope from which Capetown where Michelle Legge started a cafe focused on functional and health-focused lattes.  However, Legge believes not all functional lattes are created equal and hasn’t hopped on every emerging latte trend.

“We don’t have charcoal lattes. The idea behind those is that they take toxins out of the body. However, in fact, charcoal can also take nutrients out of the body.”

The threat of charcoal lattes aside there was plenty of ways to do good at the London Coffee Festival.  Half of the standard ticket value was donated to Project Waterfall which helps provide clean drinking water to communities in need. Last year the festival raised over 100,000 pounds this way and likely grew more this year with increased attendance. Many festival attendees also purchased from the Charity Bake For Syria. However, how many of those attendees were looking to purchase functional drinks remains to be seen. After all, for many people, coffee’s ability to help people stay awake means that for many people it will retain its status as the ultimate functional drink.

All photos by Hager Osman

About the Author

Joseph Hammond is a freelance journalist from California who has reported from Africa, Eurasia and North America.

Categories: news

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