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Cup North 2015: Not just an excuse to visit our friends in the north

An indication of the unabated growth, enthusiasm and demand for specialty coffee in the UK is the rise of the coffee festival. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the leader in this field is the London Coffee Festival, but other festivals are gaining ground.

Outside of London, Cup North is the biggest UK coffee festival. It showcases the best independent coffee shops, roasters and importers from across the north, but also from further afield. Taking place in a Victorian warehouse in vibrant Manchester, Cup North is becoming a key date on coffee lovers’ calendars.

This year it took place on the 7th and 8th of November and was chock full of enthusiasts, baristas and caffeine addicts from all over. DR Wakefield was also in attendance and we spoke to our very own Henry Clifford, to find out what went down at Cup North.

Cup for it

“Cup North is really the north’s answer to the London Coffee Festival,” explains Henry, “and along with Glasgow Coffee Festival is one of the most important new festivals in the UK.

“It’s only in its second year, but Cup North has grown significantly from the smaller, more intimate event we attended last year. Despite growing, in size and ambition, it’s retained its friendly and relaxed atmosphere.”

Billing itself as a two-day coffee party, this show celebrates all things coffee, but with the emphasis on slightly quirkier activities you might not expect to find at a coffee fest – cinemas, live music and food stalls. The majority of the stands were independent coffee shops and roasteries, rather than importers.

“Cup North is not just represented by northern coffee roasters,” says Henry. “What I found really interesting about this show, which gives you an indication of how successful it was, was that many of the really cutting-edge and leading roasters from right across the UK and Europe attended, and most of them had stands. Those at the forefront of the industry found the show relevant enough to go and exhibit there.”

Meet and greet

As a B2B business, DRW doesn’t sell directly to the consumer: we import the raw product – the green beans. But while the festival was more aimed at the coffee drinker than the roaster, Henry feels it was still important for DRW to be there:

“We were there to show that we are in tune with what’s happening in the industry, chat to our customers and support what they were doing.

“A number of our customers had stands and there were also roasters who don’t buy from us who were exhibiting. So it was a good opportunity to build our network. We had a lot of enthusiasts coming to the stand as well, keen to find out more, and it was great to share their passion and explain to them what we do in the coffee industry.”

The coffee

Those who did visit the DR Wakefield stand would have found a lot going on. Henry tells us that: “On our stand we had a brew bar, and we were showcasing some of the tastiest stuff we’ve got on offer at the moment. One was a Papua New Guinea coffee called Elimbari A. PNG is one of the lesser known origins here in the UK, but they produce some really excellent coffee, mainly produced by smallholders. We also had a Colombian coffee from the Suarez district that was full of summer fruits and citrus – both went down very well.”

Alongside this, one of the main events on the DR Wakefield stand was a cupping session in preparation for the annual Daterra auction. Each Daterra auction off the crème de la crème from their farm in Brazil. The online auction attracts bidders from Japan, Taiwan, the US and Europe.

Henry tells us more: “Obviously to bid on them you need to know how they all taste. So the week before they have the auction, everyone cups the coffees the world over. We held two pre-auction cupping sessions, one at the office in London, and then one at the festival on the Saturday.

“This was great as it allowed potential buyers to attend our stand and sample the coffees before the main event. The coffees cupped really well – they were complex, and they were all very different to one another, offering unique cup profiles. Brazil has a reputation for producing more commercial coffee as opposed to specialty, and the coffees on the table definitely showed any doubters that Brazil does do specialty coffee! It was a great session and it was well attended.”

Up for the Cup

Cup North was a booming success and we are looking forward to attending again next year. If you want to keep up to date with all the latest developments in the coffee industry follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And for a list of all our coffees from across the globe, including Daterra, click here.