Here in 2017, the New York City coffee scene is absolutely buzzing. You can feel every street corner in Manhattan, passing every coffee punned filled sandwich board, every new shop offering avocado toast and a matcha soft serve. Over the weekend, this buzz was captured, amplified, and distilled on the corner of West 18th and 8th Avenue at the 2017 New York Coffee Festival.
For the third consecutive year, Allegra Events, the organizers of the famed London Coffee Festival, took their tried-and-true formula of coffee entertainment across the pond. Allegra Events’ New York Coffee Festival squeezed arts, music, coffees, and cold brew into the air-conditioned halls of the Metropolitan Pavilion. Sprudge was there to soak it all in, and here are some of our favorite highlights of the weekend—the very best New York Coffee Festival yet.
The third annual Coffee Masters tournament at the New York Coffee Festival crowned Erika Lee Vonie of Crop To Cup champion after three explosive days of coffee competitiveness. 16 competitors from around the world faced a battery of challenges, closely monitored by the watchful judges Heather Perry (Klatch Coffee), Anne Lunell (Koppi Coffee), and Kris Shackman (Five Elephant). MCs Lem Butler (Black & White Coffee Roasters) and Jordan Michelman (Sprudge) kept the crowd hyped with their antics.
MC Lem Butler, USBC Champion and founder of Black & White Coffee, tells us, “I have always enjoyed being a part of coffee competitions. I want others to have the same enthusiasm that I have about Brewers Cup, Barista Competition, Cup Tasters, and now Coffee Masters. If I can put 120% of my energy into emceeing coffee masters, then maybe I can help create an awesome experience for the audience, the judges, and the contenders. It’s a magnificently rounded competition that showcases the skills of coffee professionals from all over the world. I love being a part of something positive and larger than myself.”
This was our favorite running of the Coffee Masters yet, leading up to a riveting finale between Vonie and Agnieszka Rojewska. Look for more on Erika Lee Vonie’s win in an upcoming spotlight feature right here on Sprudge!
Allegra Events attracts vendors from all walks of the coffee industry, each trying to outdo the other with inventive booth designs and scintilating hand-outs. Festival-goers had opportunities to sample assorted milks from Battenkill Valley Creamery (the very same milk product used by 2017 USBC finalist Sam Lewontin), taste-test maple-infused cold brews topped with cotton candy from Variety Coffee Roasters, and enter a personal infinity room to enjoy a Stumptown Coffee beverage.
Coffee + Food Pairings
What’s finer than a properly brewed Gesha coffee? Try pairing it with a rare caviar! Coutume Coffee Roasters out of Paris held tastings each day of three coffees (brewed by Ratio Coffee brewers) and three food products: caviar, charcuterie, and fine cheese. Each coffee had its own food and was carefully considered based on the coffee’s body and acidity and the food’s fat and salt content. One festival attendee told us they’d never quite experienced a flavor marriage like the one they experienced at the tasting.
More from this experience will be explored in an upcoming episode of the Coffee Sprudgecast focused on coffee culinary experiences.
Latte Art Live
Downstairs at the Latte Art Live stage, Sprudge Media Network contributor Lanny Huang led a weekend of latte art demonstrations, workshops, and throwdowns. Visitors flocked to this stage to get a chance to learn with some of coffee’s most legendary latte artists like Dee “Walt Deezy” Traylor, Dhan Tamang, and Erika Vonie.
“Latte Art Live was an interactive demonstration/presentation booth that featured a rotating cast of expert latte artists including imported talent like Dritan Alsela and Shinsaku Fukuyama,” explains Huang. “The booth was MC’d all weekend by myself and Ryanne Allen of the Northeast Recreational Coffee Association (formerly TNT_NYC). It ran all three days of the festival with the baristas taking over the booth for 30 minutes and either demonstrating, teaching or competing in latte art. Festival-goers were encouraged to judge mini-throwdowns, step up and pour their first lattes, and make requests for designs they wanted to see. On Saturday night, Bluestone Lane took over to host an old-fashioned 16-barista throwdown.”
“The booth commanded the attention of a consistent crowd because latte art is still inarguably the coolest thing,” Huang tells Sprudge. (Somewhat controversially.)
True Artisan Café
Over twenty coffee roasters took turns at the Miami-themed La Marzocco True Artisan Café (booth design by Sprudge contributor Elizabeth Chai). Baristas served free coffee to guests all weekend long off of a long row of Linea Mini espresso machines, with shifts from a broad swath of some of the world’s best roasters. Brands featured on the bar last weekend include George Howell Coffee, Parlor Coffee, The Coffee Collective, Nobletree, Joe Coffee, Toby’s Estate, and many more.
With its location at the entry way to the event’s main floor, LM’s presence at the NY Coffee Festival was undeniable. Whether picking out a favorite roaster and visiting them on purpose, or enjoying the serendipity of wandering up to discover US Barista Champion Kyle Ramage serving his own Black & White Coffee espresso, this was the place to be.
There’s much more to love from this festival—a live music competition, a coffee art exhibition, and all of it with proceeds going to Project Waterfall, a charitable organization that works with water access NGOs in coffee producing nations. We’ve got more coming out from our NY Coffee Festival coverage in the coming days. Stay tuned!
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.