Cup North was put together by the Manchester coffee community led by Hannah Davies and Ricardo Gandara to showcase the best of what the industry has to offer. Launching initially with a Kickstarter campaign which successfully raised £5,909 for their event and exceeded their original £5,000 target. We excitedly backed their Kickstarter campaign earlier this year after spotting it on Twitter, choosing two tickets, the tote bag designed by Sister Crafts and their Cup North limited edition coffee blend as our rewards.
We got a train from London up to Manchester on Friday, spending the evening before Cup North sampling the local Manchester coffee scene, visiting North Tea Power, Grindsmith and Takk. The following morning we found our way to Cup North’s venue ArtWork, an old light bulb factory that is now used to house creative start up business. When we got inside they gave us our Kickstarter rewards and wristbands for the day, I was impressed by their level of organisation and friendliness from the start. The venue already smelled strongly of freshly ground and brewed coffee - we knew this was going to be a good caffeine fueled weekend!
We made our way around the hall, browsing various stalls such as Dear Green, Made by Knock, Bean Brothers, Extract Coffee and Square Mile. Square Mile had a prototype hot water dispenser from Marco and were brewing Kilimanjaro beans that had
been processed 4 ways: natural, pulped natural, washed and cascara, an interesting set up which enabled us to see how the process changes how a coffee tastes. We had a coffee from Small Batch Coffee which was easily our favourite filter of the day, their Grand Fromage beans which had a rich, heavy body and distinctive fruity flavours. Bean Brothers were also very friendly and I was particularly impressed by their Espresso Stout which they let us sample.
"The 'Coffee Hopper Stage' hosted a number of coffee related talks throughout the day."
As well as stalls, there was also the 'Coffee Hopper Stage' which hosted a number of coffee related talks throughout the day, primarily from non-fiction and fiction authors showcasing their recently published books. This included Anette from Square Mile who had recently published her coffee guide ‘Coffee Obsession’ and Piers Alexander who did a reading from his new book 'The Bitter Trade' about conspiracy in coffeehouses during the late 17th century.
“There was a great community spirit throughout the event - everyone was there for great coffee, nothing else!”
The weekend also featured food through their collaboration with Grub and also live music in their tent. No coffee event would be complete without some cake and Noisette Bakehouse’s cakes more than fitted the bill. They had cakes which suited everyone, including vegan and gluten free options.
Cup North had no intention on cementing a North/South divide in the coffee world, or to promote Northern coffee as being superior to the rest, but rather it wanted to give the Northern coffee scene a stage to collaborate with roasters and shops throughout the country. This was refreshing to see as we arrived first thing on Saturday, with the London based roaster Square Mile having a stall opposite Leeds based North Star, Small Batch having driven 6 hours from the south coast for the event and speakers who had flown in from Ireland. There was a great community spirit throughout the event - everyone was there for great coffee, nothing else!
As the first day came to an end, we were excited for day two but also sad that we were already half way through the weekend. My haul at the end of the day included a kilo of various coffees, a number of stickers and business cards, an extra tote bag and a new tamper to add to our collection.
"Cup North had surpassed our expectations, this was no amateur event but one that had been well organised and expertly executed."
Cup North had surpassed our expectations, this was no amateur event but one that had been well organised and expertly executed. It was not only a stage for great coffee but it was also serving as a great promotion for Manchester. The coffee and the people are indeed great up north.