It's really something to witness Chelsea's distinguished Metropolitan Pavillion transform into a patchwork quilt of New York City's finest coffee companies. This is our fourth year as media partners of the New York Coffee Festival, a younger sibling of the game-changing London Coffee Festival, which by all counts is one of the largest attended consumer-facing coffee events in the world. What surprises us most about the festival is its ability to keep surprising us—booths seem to up the ante each year with attention-grabbing and crowd-pleasing design and programming. It's a thoughtful blend of experimental exhibitions, unexpected vendors, and tried-and-true events-within-events.
Here's a collection of some of our favorite moments and details from the 2018 New York Coffee Festival.
T-Shirt Canons & Booth Design
For a moment on Saturday, La Marzocco USA and Variety Coffee Roasters—two prominently featured exhibitors at the event—took part in a heated t-shirt canon battle royale. Perhaps the first of its kind at a coffee tradeshow, the companies, each armed with compressors and canons, shot t-shirts to the crowd (and, reports suggest, each other). Projectiles aside, La Marzocco's booth at the festival drew oohs and ahs all weekend long, featuring a vintage sports scoreboard theme and a live “shot counter”—each guest was invited to pull a shot of espresso, then entered to win a La Marzocco Linea Mini.
Vendors Large and Small
Roxanne Royce, the inventor of the BevBag (pictured left), exhibits with her mother at the New York Coffee Festival. The insulated bag holds four coffees in a reusable 3D-printed carrier. Royce invented the bag after experiencing the pitfalls of delivering coffees—namely the spills and the heat loss. The bag, Royce tells us, sells big with corporate clients and with folks on Amazon, where it holds a strong four-star rating. And while the fashion hits did not stop all weekend long, Mother Royce's lewk was one of the very best at New York Coffee Festival.
There's no shortage of snackables at the New York Coffee Festival, but our personal favorite was the chai-infused marshmallows on hand at the Dona Chai booth. Paired with their herbal ciders and chai-spiked hot cocoas, these lovely treats were like little cozy hugs in marshmallow form.
Spiritual guide Angelina—practicing Palm, Tarot Card, and Crystal Readings in New York City for over 20 years—offered special readings for attendees all weekend long. “There's a great energy here,” we were told by one of the many on hand at the booth. It's great to see folks like Angelina at coffee festivals, and there was plenty of interest from attendees. Maybe we'll see Angelina and their crew at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston?
The plant story was strong at the Sey Coffee booth over the weekend. Marco SP9s serving delightful coffees by co-owner Tobin Polk were practically hiding behind a wall of plant-life. Prominently placed at the entry to the show floor, and beautiful in its simplicity, this was a strong showing from the Bushwick based brand.
We have entered (or perhaps about to enter) peak the age of cannabidiol-in-everything. Azuca, a New York-based company specializing in sweeteners infused with CBD and THC, are marketing the legal non-psychoactive CBD products to cocktail bars and coffee companies alike. We're watching this space as we continue to see CBD show up as an upcharge on upscale cafe menus across the country.
Project Waterfall, a non-profit started by the festival's founders, is a project aimed at providing clean drinking water to coffee-growing communities. The initiative is present at each festival, and this year guests were invited to put on VR-goggles and go on a virtual reality thrill-ride.
This piece of art, on display at the Coffee Festival's Coffee Art Project competition, sold on the first day for what we believe was around $800.
While London Coffee Festival is paced by no-one when it comes to fashion-forward vendors (almost an entire floor is dedicated to attire and accessories), the NY Coffee Festival is catching up. That's thanks to the help of jewerly-maker Anna Steinerová and her line of coffee-themed accessories Kaawa. Based in the Czech Republic, Kaawa has been specializing in coffee jewelry since 2013. These beautiful designs turned heads all weekend long.
The robots are still coming—and the pour-over robot du jour comes to the festival from the folks at Bubble Lab Robotics. The pour-over bot (Drip) is expected to come out in early 2019 (we were told March) and is going to retail for around $8,000. The booth also showcased an undercounter beverage delivery system (Drop) capable of supplying hot or cold beverages. A unit was positioned next to an espresso machine for cold milk delivery. This device is expected to run $3k and also expected to arrive March, 2019.
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Bubble Lab is here with their Drip pour-over robot and the Drop milk delivery system. We’re digging the milk delivery—think of all that milk waste you wouldn’t waste if a robot gave you exactly what you wanted, right?! Under the counter the milk was being fed out of an ordinary two gallon plastic container, no bladder necessary. Coming out maybe in March 2019. Robot around $8k Milk around $3k. @bubblelabrobotics
Anthropomorphic Cold Brew
Buzzy and Spesh watch out, there's a new anthropomorphic coffee in town. Variety Coffee Roasters debuted their fun-loving cold brew mascot, followed by a boombox toting man to provide the tunes with which to dance. It was an instant hit. People love mascots.
Winning all of the awards for best-dressed, Revelator Coffee roaster Cameron Heath stunned in a purple suit ensemble, expertly matching the coffee on offer at the Trade booth. Revelator teamed up with Trade, a new e-commerce company that launched in April this year.
Here are a few runner-ups:
For more from the fest, please check out @newyorkcoffeefestival on Instagram, and follow @Sprudge for live looks from the weekend. Up next: we'll see you at the Los Angeles Coffee Festival November 9th—11th.
Disclosure: Sprudge Media Network is a media sponsor of the New York Coffee Festival.