On the 14th October 2017, Edinburgh Coffee Festival returned for the third year, this time expanding to the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, as opposed to last year’s Summerhall. The festival was founded by current organiser Martin Dare in 2015, and has since gone from strength to strength. Originally starting with 25 suppliers in its first year of running, it has quickly gone to showcasing over 40 stall-holders. The festival ran from 10:30am until 4pm, with talks running in 3 rooms on the hour all day; tickets for students were £8.50, and £10 for the general public. As well as day tickets being available, a £60 ‘Introduction to Coffee’ course was also run, for the aspiring baristas in Edinburgh.
In addition to its impressive recent growth, the Edinburgh Coffee festival was a zero-waste event, and the very first fully-compostable Coffee Festival to be run in the UK.
The reputation of the coffee industry is, to date, one of questionable ethics and unsustainable practices; the industry’s past seems to be riddled with connotations of worker exploitation, large scale deforestation, and the massive landfill waste that take away coffee cups produce every year.
However, the tone of this year’s Edinburgh Coffee festival seemed to be aimed at gaining back some of the reputation years of bad press has contributed to. As well as the event being zero-waste – due to the festival’s partnership with Vegware, an Edinburgh based bioplastic company – the Edinburgh Coffee Festival also had stalls from Keep Scotland Beautiful, a ‘charity committed to keeping Scotland green, clean and more sustainable’. Kate, from Vegware, said: ‘It’s so important for us to be here, as we are one of the sponsors. We are dealing with all of the compostable waste and food waste after the event. […] We’ve worked with the Edinburgh Coffee Festival to ensure that all the waste from across the festival [is composted]. Every single exhibitor here is using compostable products.’
The festival’s charity partner, Mercy Corps, also ran a talk in the morning, highlighting the issues of small-holder farmer advocacy in coffee producing countries, such as Colombia.
The Edinburgh Coffee festival also seemed ideal for the average coffee consumer looking to get more out of their coffee. Machina’s stall, for example, were selling a V60 coffee dripper for £6.50. The V60 enhances the taste and flavours in speciality coffee – an ideal and cheap way to get more out of your everyday morning coffee.
Highlights were talks such as an ‘Introduction to coffee sensory’, focusing on showing the audience how to appreciate the smells and tastes in speciality coffee. The talk was extremely enjoyable and interactive, and focussed on picking out smells and tastes from cotton wool and jelly beans provided to the audience, with the aim to give an idea of what exactly coffee companies mean when they describe their coffee as ‘smoky’, for example. Rohanie, a student at the University of Edinburgh, said, ‘I really enjoyed the talk – it was so interesting and really fun to understand a little more about speciality coffee.’
The festival also gave an important platform to Edinburgh’s independent coffee retailers – Alice, from Obadiah Coffee, said: ’I think it’s a really good way to gain exposure and just to reach out to the community, and to expose the business. It’s a real joy to share the business with other people, and to see people’s reactions and how they’re tasting things and making connections as well.’
Overall, the Edinburgh Coffee festival is a really fun way to learn more about the coffee industry – from understanding how to get the best flavours out of your coffee beans, to understanding the issues with sustainability and ethics surrounding coffee, and how we can help to rectify them.