Sunday, 4 March 2012

Norwich's First Coffee Festival

No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness.  
~Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

Anyone who follows me on Facebook and twitter, soon discovers that most of my status updates start with 'Drinking coffee in my pink, fluffy dressing gown'. For me, any day which starts with a cup of good coffee, is a good day. I have been known to have a small nervous breakdown when my coffee machine packed up. I like my coffee, like I like my men: strong, hot and steamy. I used to have Taylor and Harrogate's Hot Lava Java and thought that was heaven. Until, I met Dave, who showed me where to get truly great coffee in Norwich.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is truly great coffee to be had in Norwich. I will not voluntarily set foot in a coffee house chain again. Not when there are local business serving fantastic coffee with the fanaticism of a wine connoisseur. Not when they source coffee that takes Fair Trade to the point where their suppliers fly around the world, out to the coffee plantation to meet with the farmers and pay over and above what's considered a fair price for awesome coffee.

Going to The Window is like rocking up to Hayley's front room. There's just enough space for 8 people to sit comfortably (hoping everyone doesn't mind touching elbows and knocking the occasional knee). Hayley recently tweeted that she got 15 people in there. Not sure how she managed it, but she did. She knows her customers by name and it's a place to be sociable. I've met some fantastic people, doing amazing things with their lives. I get my morning coffee from The Window; I'm currently drinking her House Blend. 

Strangers Coffee House, is a slightly different experience. Firstly, there's more space, which means I've been able to drag people there for quiet World Domination meetings. The coffee again is outstanding. Alex is truly a master barista. His coffee is a work of art. I knew I was with the right person when I took a picture of a latte and Dave didn't think me odd.

Is this not a thing of beauty?
You think I take my coffee seriously? Dave is a judge for the UK Barista Championships and he travels the country judging baristas' offerings. The things I've learnt! I'm glad I'm not a judge, 4 good cups of coffee is my limit. Even then the caffeine jag is hard to bear. The thought of having to judge an espresso, a cappuccino and a signature drink (the drink by which the baristas get to play with coffee) for anywhere from 10 to 16 competitors. I'd be intolerable by the end of the day. 

Yesterday, Norwich hosted it's first Coffee Festival and the Midlands Heat of the UK Barista Championships. I had a World Domination meeting, so I didn't start my day there, but went for the afternoon session. It was held at The Space, up at Rowndtree Way. The main auditorium was filled with coffee suppliers and stands from local businesses. There were opportunities to try out coffee prepared with an aeropress and also, the competing baristas happily made coffee for attendees for contributions to a coffee charity. 

What a brilliant event to have in Norwich. Now granted, I'm biased. Alex, from Strangers was competing and I did want to see him strut his stuff, but even so, I was very pleased to have spent an afternoon wandering around. I like spending time with people who are passionate about their trade. It was a warm and welcoming event. Now bearing in mind I knew Dave, who was judging and Alex, who was competing (and no, Dave didn't judge Alex, everyone was keen to ensure the impartiality of the competition). By the time the event came to an end, I was on first name terms with the suppliers and most of the competitors. I was a bit lighter in the pocket and I had some great samples of coffee, which I shared. Competitors were keen to talk shop, but in a friendly and out of a genuine love of their craft. Check out this:

It's a dragon, innit. Amazing considering it was done in a paper cup.
One of the baristas was on the Coffee Bar and I couldn't resist showing off one of Alex's masterpieces. Well, who told me to do that? The next thing I knew, I was in the midst of a Latte Art Smack Down. Out came the mobile phones as they showed off their creations. Everything from multiple hearts to Indian Chief heads. Amazing. And I can vouch that the dragon looked and tasted great too.

I am especially pleased to announce that Alex placed second in the competition! The bar was set high and for his first time he performed really well. Now, we wait for the results of the remaining heats to see whether he makes it to the semi-finals. It's done on points, so we've got a bit of a wait. I'm keeping my fingers crossed though. But what a great result for Norwich! He did us proud.

Fingers crossed, this will be an annual event. I'm already looking forward to it!

PS. I have permission to name names, but please be aware that this post represents my own opinions and only them.


  1. Comfort and art in a cup. Excellent.

    I personally don't drink coffee, but love the aroma of freshly ground coffee. Especially rich, earthy beans like Kona.

    1. It's okay honey. I still love you. Even if you are totally weird like that.

  2. Surely they only have a taste of each? All that caffeine would be a killer! I wonder if, in competition, they find they have to do much adjustment to allow for the local water, or maybe they take bottled. I love the idea of a coffee charity.

    1. I'm afraid the sips still add up. I don't know if they have to allow for local water. I do know Dave took Rich Tea biscuits in with him and that was the first time it had been done (and was a good idea, by the sound of things).

      For the life of me, I can't remember the name of the charity. I believe it's to help educate the kids of the coffee pickers and growers.

  3. I can't drink just coffee... I am a wimp! I have to have mine mixed half and half with hot chocolate. Not a true mocha, just that mixed with a splash of milk. None of that whipped cream stuff for me. And it has to be a light roast! I am very sensitive to the bitterness in coffee... bitterness in anything actually. Can't consume it if it's bitter.

    I know... I'm a big failure when it comes to coffee! BUT, with LX's suggestions, it seems I can eliminate the commenting issues if I use Internet Explorer as the browser for my blogging. For whatever reason, blogger doesn't work properly in google Chrome (which I really like otherwise). So here I am, using IE, and being an active commenter once again!

    1. I'm glad LX was able to sort you out with your commenting issues. Good to see you about here.

      Well, each to their own. I'll bring my own coffee in that case. Though I am partial to the occasional moka. It's good to blend one's pleasures.

  4. I like the John Wayne coffee, you know that clayey stuff in the old metall coffeepot ... I once attended a kind of coffee ceremony with people from Ethiopia, and dear, that was some of the most exciting experiences in taste I ever had. I felt a heavy craving for black chocolate after the second small cup, and GOd knows what wood and spices they burnt in the fire.

  5. Mago, you and I are made for each other. I like robust coffee.

    A coffee festival? Oh wow, sounds incredible. Please blog about it. I'd love to hear more!


Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome. Pull up a chair, have a cup of coffee, make yourself at home.