Alrighty - one of my favourite events of the coffee calendar has recently come and gone, and needless to say I’m here to tippety-tap away and tell you all about it. Guessed what it is yet? I’d be slightly worried if you hadn’t - it is in the title of this blog post after all.
Yep, the Birmingham Coffee Festival was in town! Triple yays all round with an extra double shot of yay on top!
Location + Event Space
This year's Birmingham Coffee Festival was situated in the Custard Factory: the same location as last year’s debut. That meant it was much easier to find this time round (for someone who grew up just outside of the city, I’m terrible with its geography!), and it was only a short walk from the Bullring before we were in line to get in.
The Custard Factory is by far the trendiest place in Birmingham. I always think it’s probably the best place to host the coffee festival, as it is the most ‘Shoreditchey’ vibe that Brum has to offer. Think artistic graffiti on the walls and huge warehouse-style vintage shops in this area. Obviously having a coffee festival here is a no-brainer.
The layout of the event space itself was actually pretty different from last year, and it did feel like there were fewer exhibitors because of it. However, I can’t say that this is definitely true, as I feel that this year the space was definitely used more productively - fitting the exhibitors in better and allowing more room for visitors to move around. Compared to last year, it was by far much easier to manoeuvre the hectic crowds - something you all know I have a problem with with other (unnamed…) coffee festivals!
This year’s Birmingham Coffee Festival boasted a great ‘line up’ of exhibitors this year, with all stands focusing on the speciality market. Nothing more peeves me off at a coffee festival when the exhibitors aren’t even speciality, as I feel like they’re wasting time and space for everyone - but this was definitely not the case for the BCF.
There were a significant amount of high quality coffee roasters exhibiting at the festival, and lucky for me - I got to try a great bunch of different coffees: both espresso and filter. For a city which has up until recently been heavily devoted to espresso-based beverages (I’m sure people are still getting used to the flat white over here…!), it was definitely great to see a rise in the amount of filter being sold and brewed over the weekend.
Although I did taste a good variety of coffee as I walked around the Birmingham Coffee Festival, I did give a few stands a miss. I found it very strange that they were charging for the pleasure of trying their coffee, and I almost felt embarrassed for them. Needless to say this left a bad first impression of them on me, so I didn’t bother to stop and taste them!
There was only a minimal amount of stalls at the Birmingham Coffee Festival which did not focus on the caffeinated beverage. There was the grand old Cakesmiths Alongside those delicious people, Oatly was also exhibiting. They were brilliant as per usual, but did I really need to clarify? I bumped into an old work-friend, Gilly, and we had a right old chat with eachother which was glorious too - and he made me a gorgeous flat white with the wonderful Oatly Barista. If you follow any of my blog posts or instagram, you sure as heck know how much I love that stuff.
Next up on this little feature is by far the bit which makes me love this coffee festival so much: the vibe.
Very much representative of the personality of the city it resides in, the Birmingham Coffee Festival feels incredibly laid back and friendly compared to the other coffee events out there. Like Midlanders: it’s no nonsense, no frills, good fun. Of course, I’m slightly biased here, but it is true!
Unlike a couple of the other coffee festivals that I have attended, there wasn't as much of a communication barrier between the general public and the exhibitors. I really delved into some great conversations with both companies I had already met, but also small brands who I’d never come across before.
There didn’t seem to be that air of pretentiousness which comes along with some areas of speciality coffee (although I do believe that attitude is diminishing year by year)! This was very refreshing to feel, and really made for a great experience.
In terms of the speciality coffee vibe, the Birmingham Coffee Festival also excelled. The knowledge of the coffee scene was spot on, and all of the exhibitors (and most of the guests!) seemed to know exactly what they were talking about.
Birmingham up until a couple of years ago was seriously lagging behind other cities in regards to the coffee culture that they offered: especially when it came to the speciality kind. Now they’re almost leading the way in the third wave coffee scene! It makes me so happy to see how progressive of a city it has become.
How is this the case? Well, the coffee itself has moved away from incredibly dark espresso roasts - what used to be the norm in most Brum coffee shops - to now dabbling with lighter tasting coffees, as well as the inclusion of hand-brewed filter in the expansion of their menus.
I shouldn’t have favourites…it was such a great day after all…but there were a couple of honourable mentions from the day who I have to raise you guys’ attention to. Heck, they deserve it!
Hundred House Coffee have been around for a little while, and I’d never (unfortunately) taken these guys seriously before having a good old chat with them at the festival. The chap (I’m sorry I can’t remember his name!) had an insane awareness and knowledge of the development of the speciality coffee industry, which he had translated into making his business excel.
Oatly x Roundhill Roastery - Oatly is dominating the coffee industry at the moment, and good on them! You all know by now how much I love a good oat milk flat white. Collaborating this time round with Roundhill Roastery, they were definitely the swankiest lot of the festival.
Quarter Horse Coffee weren’t too close behind Oatly in terms of their swanky-ness, and I’m always blown away by their espresso when I’m lucky enough to try it. I’ve been trying to get to their coffee shop-stroke-roastery in Birmingham for quite awhile now, but I never see myself over on that side of the city. After having such a wonderful conversation with the team reps at the festival, I’m going to have to make some kind of excuse to visit soon!
I don’t really have to say too much about La Marzocco being their usual great selves at the festival: you all should believe me easily! I loved how they supplied their Linea Minis to all of the exhibitors, in some pretty jazzy colours. It really added to the whole fun-feeling of the event. The only bad thing about this is the fact that it’s getting increasingly more difficult to stop me from buying a Linea Mini for my own home! They were also showing off their Leva machine, which was a real beaut' of machinery.
Lastly, it was great to have a brief chin-wag with Tom McCormack, one of the main chaps behind the festival itself. We were just leaving (I’d become a tad distracted at getting a photo with my cup of coffee and the full-sized Tardis) when Tom grabbed us to say hello before he missed us. As I imagined, he was a lovely fella, and it was great to get to know him a bit better.
To end what has been an insanely long post (sorry not sorry), it was great to see the festival back again, as you all know how fondly I wrote about it in its first year. On first appearances, I was initially disappointed as the change in size and small amount of time I spent there (you could easily witness the entire festival in about an hour and a half). However, once I’d ventured around I realised it was the perfect size: after all, I’ve slated other festivals for how big and hectic they are - I can’t have it both ways!
The festival was in no way intense, and welcomed everyone from every coffee walk of life, which was definitely refreshing to see. I’m definitely looking forward to next year when it (hopefully!) comes back, as it really is a great day out.
Don’t overlook the fact that it’s in Birmingham and doesn’t seem to get the same press coverage as its festival cousins - this is definitely a festival you should not be missing!