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The New York Coffee Festival

Last weekend, Allegra Events’ third annual Coffee Festival took place at its new home: the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, Manhattan. Over three days and on three floors of the Pavilion, the event featured innovative exhibitors for coffee and tea drinkers alike, a barista championship, demonstrations, workshops, talks, and of course, tastings.

One could have easily spent the better part of the morning or afternoon at this festival. Many of the 100+ exhibitors could be found in The Village portion of the festival, which was inspired by the coffee-shop vibe of the Village, itself. These included many well-known New York names like Irving Farm, Stumptown, Fika, Cafe Grumpy, Joe, and Starbucks, as well as a host of new ones like La Marzocco, Variety Coffee Roasters, Tea Hee Hee, Bushwick Brooklyn Tea New York, Matchaful, Art of Tea, and many more. The Coffee Masters NYC barista championship crowned Erika Lee Vonie as winner this year. TheLab program featured cutting-edge coffee art, innovative brewing techniques and taste sensations, as well as top tips for setting up a coffee shop and information about the history of coffee. The 9 finalists from the Coffee Music Project performed at the festival, and the Coffee Cocktail Bar was nearby for attendees to drink a tasty beverage while listening to the music. Latte Art Live featured latte artists demonstrating techniques and skills in 30-minute workshops.

According to several people working at the festival, the event was more crowded this year than in years past. Nevertheless, with unlimited samples of coffee and tea available, spirits were high. In addition, there were small food items to enjoy, as well. All ticket proceeds went to benefit Project Waterfall, as part of charitable Coffee Week NYC™, with funds directly entrusted to NYC-based charity: water. The purpose of this movement is to promote the vibrancy of the coffee industry while also raising money for clean water and sanitation projects in coffee producing communities. Through these donations, Project Waterfall will be able to continue bringing clean water to coffee countries such as Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.For more information about charity: water and their recent projects, go to www.charitywater.org.

The upsides to the festival were many. The coffee and food items were delicious and the atmosphere was exciting. The many events taking place allowed coffee lovers of all types to be able to enjoy the experience, from a novice coffee drinker to an experienced barista, to an entrepreneur looking to set up a new coffee business. One particularly interesting sample I tried was actually from Starbucks: the Whiskey Barrel-Aged Sulawesi, which tasted a lot like whiskey but had no alcohol in it. For the tea drinkers, there were many tea options, from herbal to matcha to black teas. A refreshing green tea I enjoyed was the strawberry green tea, from Art of Tea. After I’d loaded up on many samples of caffeinated beverages, I had a newfound appreciation for the herbal varieties, particularly the hibiscus elderberry iced tea from Bushwick Brooklyn Tea New York. Booths were distinctive and alluring, and walking around them really did feel like exploring an artsy little neighborhood. There were also lots of tasty treats, both complimentary and for-purchase. 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.

The downsides to the festival were few. I happen to be a coffee drinker who likes milk with my coffee, and I know I’m not the only one. Black coffee is a little hard on the stomach and is an acquired taste for many. All coffee samples were served black. My thinking is that there could have been stations with milk and sweeteners for those who wanted to add it to the coffee samples. I think that would have helped me enjoy a lot of the samples I tried, but I know that would have complicated an already-crowded festival and probably offended some coffee professionals. Another downside was traveling from one floor to the next to see what else the festival had in store. It was not a difference of one or two floors; it was at least three floors between one part of the festival and another. I think this could have been hard on some, and that is most likely why the line for the elevator was extremely long whenever I passed it.

Overall, though, this festival was a great experience and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves coffee. It can give you that extra jolt you need on the weekend, introduce you to new coffees and teas, and benefit a worthy cause.

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About Christine Thelen

Christine is a music writer, photographer, and English teacher living in New York. She's been writing for Short and Sweet since 2008 but writing about music since 1999. She loves photographing and interviewing bands most of all. Notable interviews include Underworld (England), Supergrass (England), Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (Wales), Hefner (England), Zero 7 (England), Nylon Union (Slovakia), Clinic (England), Hundreds (Germany), Nive Nielsen (Greenland), Alcoholic Faith Mission (Denmark), Captain Fufanu (Iceland), and the Postelles (NYC). Watch her on the ShortandSweetNYC Youtube Channel.
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