Last week saw close to 35,000 people heading over to the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane for London Coffee Festival.
Now, why does London have a Coffee Festival? Let me explain…
The festival launched 7 years ago as London was fast becoming an influential city as a major player in the coffee market.
Think of all those artisan cafes, baristas and coffee houses that have been popping up across the city over the last few years, delivering so much more than a flat white, and you won’t be surprised at this gathering of the world of the independent beverage.
The festival itself has become so much more than its name suggests.
As you walk into the venue, you are hit by the strong and tempting coffee aromas that permeate through the air. A buzz of talk, DJ tunes, hipster beards and bustle; this place is packed full to the brim of some of East London’s finest. But don't be fooled that this is just about cups of coffee. This festival is a celebration of innovation, of entrepreneurism, of art, of style and of the future of drinking.
The festival is held over several floors and levels of event space, and each stall and stand aim to give a taste (quite literally) of their brand to give the passing trade of producers, distributers, stockists, writers, reviewers, bloggers and cafe, restaurant & bar managers.
Health, originality and provence are key trends that consistently raise their head as you wander from floor to floor. Through the array of coffee and tea stands, the snacks, juices and soft drinks players are also making their mark in the world of cafe culture and can be seen far and wide giving the more traditional beverages a run for their money.
Anything artificially sweet or sugary just doesn’t seem to cut it any more. The world of drinks is moving to a healthier, purer and more natural space. All of the new innovative brands in this arena are moving away from ingredients that don’t arise naturally and don’t give the consumer of today what they are looking for. Who wants something bad for you any more?
Honey to sweeten your drinks, using the actual cola nut rather than a synthesised flavouring, cane sugars rather than refined and bleached sugars, coconut milks, more of your five a day, and organically grown fair-trade ingredients are what is making up the drinks of the future.
That and some bloody amazing flavour combinations that literally get your taste buds tingling.
It is an experience, and one that we thoroughly enjoyed. So, here are some of our soft drinks highlights, the pick of the ones to watch in 2016…
Moju cold pressed juice - let's get #stupidlyhealthy
Charlie & Rich, the duo behind Moju make fresh, cold and extremely tasty pressed juices, packing vegetables and fruit into each flavour combination. They are never heat pasteurised, which means they are a healthy, quick and convenient way for your body to get the nutrients it needs.
The key is using more nutrient packed sugary veg than fruit, and steering clear of pulps, purees and additives. Not pasteurising means that Moju pressed juices retain a huge amount of flavour and even more of the original nutrients. The Purple one - a mix of sweet root vegetables including Beetroot, combined with apple and cucumber was our favourite. Tasty.... tick. Healthy....tick, Nice one guys!
Kitsch - all natural craft soda
Using the best natural ingredients, Edinburgh based craft soda brand Kitch make all natural sodas with a little craft and some care and attention. What’s more, they bottle them up in packaging that’s fully recyclable.
The old school style bottle, cute name and the truly original and delicious flavour combinations - Rhubarb and Thai Basil or Cucumber and Fennel Seed - make this new contender one to get excited about.
If you’re looking for any artificial flavours, colours, preservatives, sweeteners, concentrates or indeed anything boring, then you’re pretty much looking in the wrong place. Kitsch is a brand to get your hands on this summer!
Welcome to a new type of soft drink, the ones intent on delivering social change.
Lemonaid+ is a range of honest soft drinks. Available in Lime, Passionfruit & Blood Orange, the team mix pure juice with a little cane sugar and sparkling water - and that is it. Using only organically grown fair-trade ingredients straight from certified small farming co-operatives, the brand is intent on changing the world one soft drink at a time.
ChariTea is real brewed, organic ice tea from Fairtrade ingredients and suppliers. Available in a range of flavours and even a sparkling variety, this brand is bringing back ice tea in a way that is definitely not Liptons!
Both Lemonaid and ChariTea aim to incite and shape the process of social change. With every bottle purchased a 5 pence donation is made to support the Lemonaid and ChariTea charitable organisation which has raised over half a million pounds to date and supports a variety of development and aid projects in the countries and with the farmers that these brands work with.
Created by Joe & Andy, with the idea coming to them after hanging out with Joe's family garden surrounded by bees - both Joe's dad and granddad are bee keepers!
The idea of Just Bee Honey Water was born, and the boys have created a refreshing, and low calorie healthy soft drink by infusing spring water with honey and other natural flavours and juices.
Not only are the drinks made from 100% natural ingredients, but by using honey as the sweetener they are naturally lower in sugar and each one comes in at under 50 calories.
The guys also donate 10% of Just Bee profits to charity partners including Friends of the Honey Bee, a British charity with the objective of helping to reverse the dramatic fall in bee numbers. So by drinking more you are helping more bees to survive...nice work!
The Karma Cola family contains Karma Cola, Gingerella and Lemony Lemonade. As a range of fizzy drinks, these ones are good for growers, good for the land, and as good for you as fizzy drinks can be.
Unlike other soft drinks, these are definitely soda pop stars with a retro 70's vibe and achingly cool branding. Their contents are pretty cool too, made with organic, fair-trade ingredients and the lightly processed kind of sugar that isn't bleached white with sulphur.
Karma’s original cola recipe is made of real cola nut grown by the Mende and Temne people in Boma, Sierra Leone. Yes people, there is actually a cola nut, who knew! Which is why their strap line is "drink no evil", just natural ingredients, and being kind to the people that produce them.
NIX&KIX - get #cayennehappy
It's time to get #CayenneHappy with NIX&KIX, a new soft drink with a kick of cayenne chilli to get your taste buds tingling.
The range is available in 3 flavours - Mango & Ginger, Cucumber & Mint, and Peach & Vanilla, and the fruit flavours along side the little hint of chilli spice give you a range of adult soft drinks that are totally unique and different to other drinks.
The lovely Julia and Kerstin who took part in our Entrepreneur-spiration blog series, have worked hard to create a beautiful balance of sweetness and spice, using the best natural ingredients, and without the use of any refined sugar, making them totally tasty and deliciously spicy.
That's all folks...
That's it for our round up of London Coffee Festival's soft drinks highlights, and the ones to watch out for in 2016.
These brands are the new, the interesting, the innovative and the downright tasty, and all are started by passionate entrepreneurs who believe that they can make a change to the drinks market, offer consumers a better, healthier, tastier product, and even make a difference while doing it. Well done guys, kudos to you all.