Innovation and Excellence at the Dublin Coffee & Tea Festival 2014

I treated myself to a visit to the much anticipated Dublin Coffee & Tea Festival on Friday out in the RDS - another fine IFSA Event in association with SCAE. I went along with my brother Lee Bradshaw – a very talented New Product Development consultant – who, like me, is always on the lookout for foodservice innovation and excellence.

The sun came out in blessing for the congregation of true believers and with the assorted contingents of caffine-istas, percolation purists, filter fanatics, verbal herbalists and the try-curious the event was well attended.

It was great to meet with so many of the exhibitors of market leaders and innovators to talk all things coffee and teas related and listen to how the market is shaping up for all involved. One can’t help but be infected by the level of passion and commitment from these benevolent zealots. I remember running a chain of independent coffee shops in the early noughties and witnessing the sea change in the punters’ palatial preference – from tea to coffee almost overnight and a direct inversion of sales.

Coffee is to the Teens what wine was to the Noughties

It has been apparent for now for some time to those who care to note, that that the evolving coffee trends evolution to domestic and micro roasters, with lighter roasting; promoting more subtle floral tones with sustainable fair trade beans, is to this decade what wine was in the last. And what with the talented volunteers from SCAE in attendance demonstrating everything from a cafetiere to a siphon and even hand roasters – there is a great demystifying, educating and democratization method behind their madness.

Event highlights, trends & ones to watch

Bewleys: Their stand had a welcoming rustic open-air feel with a huge siphon on display. So much to cram in but a big mention to Damian Marshall at the innovation dept. of Bewleys and a SCAE impresario who took the time to walk me around the exhibition to introducing me to the SCAE volunteers and their demonstrations. The much anticipated Bewleys "Coffee Project" was on display - where your taste buds can travel the globe when you sign up for a different bag of coffee in the post each month!

Java Republic: I didn’t get to hear the owner David Mckernan speak – but team JR was keenly represented by the superb MD Grace O’ Shaughnessy. The new fresh and crisp re-branded JR product was well received by the public and complimented by a glossy pull-out supplement-esque set of excellent sourcing, roasting and tasting notes. Their display stand was clean and minimal and looked like it could be selling smart phones or tablets – Steve Jobs would have sneered approval methinks. I particularly love their hand-stitched silken tea pillows – a sensory and aesthetic overload! I first met Grace out in the JR HQ – for the barista semi-finals late last year. I was struck by her absolute passion and commitment to her field of expertise. For those of you not familiar with the JR HQ – it’s like a miniature Guinness Storehouse but for coffee lovers – I URGE you to take a tour soonest!

UCC Coffee: A very impressive stand with its dark wood panelling and if a Scandinavian Darth Vader designed for Ikea he would create something like this. I like UCC Coffee and their excellent though deceptively simple no nonsense total solution approach to coffee and their “Let’s Talk Coffee” and “Plantation to Portafilter” philosophy. I spoke with David Porteous the Director of Business Development about the impressive developments they have been making in the Irish market and some future innovations in the pipeline.

3fe: So much has already been written in coffee circles about the guru Colin Harmon and his wondrous – obsessive coffee crusade in innovation and excellence for baristas and micro-roasters. So I’ll not add much more here. Needless to say though, he is the poster pin-up for entrepreneurship and in answering “the call” in choosing a vocation over a career. His coffee emporium and centre of excellence keeps much of the digital docklands hopped up on excellent coffee.

Cloudpickers: Formed in 2013 the new boys on the block – have made grinding inroads (geddit!) into the world of Dublin micro-roasters and are now on very exclusive pre-approved supplier list for the likes of Google. They are ambitious and hard-working and are making the right connections in the supplier / distributor foodservice marketplace. So watch this space…

Two Spots: These guys are small – tiny even – but they have hoop-dreams coach! Still a bit rough round the edges but they have passion, drive and commitment by the bucket load and a great nose for good coffee and they learn quickly! I look forward to seeing what the future holds for them.