Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Chorlton Coffee Festival

Since I quit a fairly safe graduate job at the end of last year, I've gone through stages of working a mere two days a week to not having two minutes to myself to think! In part, I can thank the wonderful Chorlton Coffee Festival for that. Get your tiny violins out, please, people: as well as working three jobs, I am somehow heading up the marketing for this innovative wee festival happening in the lovely south Manchester suburb.

So, despite being in charge of the marketing shenanigans for the festival, I didn't want to get too salesy and blabber on about how great the festival is going to be (which IT WILL BE). Rather, I wanted to talk about a little coffee experience that Jamie & I had when visiting Berlin last year. An experience that made me re-think the way we "do" coffee shops in the UK.

Described as something of a 'hole in the wall', Double Eye is a teeny coffee shop, situated on a beautiful street in Schöneberg. Well, I think it was beautiful... it was a gorgeous, sunny day when we visited, and I was in love with Berlin, so everything looked a bit like I'd taken some sort of herbal high. Even though it wasn't near where we were staying, Jamie and I made a rather long trip over to this caffeine provider, as it appears as one of the best places to get coffee on most review sites and city guides. The queue was out of the door, practically half-way down the street. Normally, this might put me off, but we'd come so far! 

We patiently queued, and by the time we entered the shop itself, what really struck me was the sense of calm in the building. No impatient individuals, impertiently tapping their fingertips on the counter, but calm, Sunday-morning people, looking forward to a damn good cup of coffee, however long it would take. I couldn't work out whether this behaviour was mirroring that of the staff, or vice versa. The baristas were serving cup after cup after cup of coffee, happily. There was no sense of stress, or annoyance at the busyness, just a humble dedication to perfecting their flat whites. 

What's funny is that it isn't really the coffee itself that I recall. I remember something soothing and milky, with a complimentary sweet biscuit perched on top. It's how relaxing the environment felt when I was waiting inside. It didn't matter to anyone that there were tens of people in need of a coffee: every customer was treated as if they were the first person to order a coffee that day.

In many coffee shops in the UK - and here, I'm talking about the huge, city centre chain ones - there's such an impatient and unfriendly attitude with regards to buying takeaway coffee. Yes, I know you're incredibly important and are in a terrible rush to get your caffeine fix, but really, must you be so surly? Of course, Starbucks is like totally changing the customer-barista interaction now baristas are being so personable and being forced to ask our first name when we order a drink.

If, you are in Berlin, by the way, and want a damn good cup of coffee - to be remembered for how amazing the coffee itself is - make sure you hit Bonanza: simarly relaxing, though professional to the point I thought I'd walked into some New York advertising agency when I saw the baristas.

So, drinking in coffee in Berlin is how I came to be involved with Chorlton Coffee Festival. When I met Lorelei, the festival producer, and heard her desire to promote cafe culture as it is on the continent, and internationally, in the UK, I was sold. Unlike other coffee festivals in the UK, it's not about getting huge sponsorships from industry suppliers (though some sponsorship would be nice if any kind benefactor is listening!), it's about celebrating the independent spirit of Chorlton's cafes, bars and restaurants.

Chorlton Coffee Festival takes place on the weekend of 28th - 30th June, across 30+ venues in the area. Establishments will be offering coffee related deals and hosting related (and not-so-related!) events across the three days. On Saturday 29th, Chorlton Central Church will transform into the festival 'hub', with tastings, demos and workshops from related businesses. As I - and all of the other volunteers involved - have given up many hours, days and weeks to get this festival together, please support us by coming along, drinking a cup of coffee (or tea!) and celebrating all that's great about cafe culture by relaaaaxing.

Double Eye 
Akazienstraße 22, 10823 Berlin
0179 456 6960

Oderberger Straße 35, 10435 Berlin
0176 6169 1496