Cup North Day Two - Tamper Tantrum

visited on the 2 November



After the success of day one, we approached day two with high expectations for the 'main event' of the weekend. Tamper Tantrum had been one of the main focuses of their Kickstarter campaign as hosting the event would put Cup North alongside other prestigious coffee events around the globe. Tamper Tantrum has been described by Steve Leighton from Has Bean as 'the TED talks of coffee', showing the appreciation their platform for coffee talks has received worldwide.

“Tamper Tantrum has been described by Steve Leighton from Has Bean as 'the TED talks of coffee'”

Tamper Tantrum had taken over what was the 'Coffee Hopper Stage' the day before, hosted by Colin Harmon from 3FE in Dublin who introduced each speaker who had 20 minutes to 'wax lyrical' about their chosen topic before a Q&A session with the audience.

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The day started with Marta Dalton from Coffee Bird Ltd who gave an inspiring talk about why ‘coffee farmers rock’. She spoke about the political and environmental factors that farmers face in Guatemala and El Salvador which coffee drinkers are mostly unaware of. The traits which made a successful coffee farmer included optimism, persistence, excellence and determination. She gave examples of Guatemalan farmers who excelled at each of these traits, including Don Manuel who in 1864 was the first coffee farmer in Antigua and by the following year was commissioned by the Guatemalan president to teach other farmers how to grow coffee. Marta’s passion for coffee and her extensive knowledge made her talk a great note for the day to start on.

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Next was Ross Brown from Browns of Brockley, who spoke about why he opened a shop, the mistakes he made by having no business plan and what has changed. He spoke about how at first he tried to please all of his customers, making all sorts of awful concoctions that customers requested, but took the bold move last Christmas to strip back the shop, introduce a new menu focusing on good coffee and also increasing prices more in line with competitors. He spoke about the backlash this initially caused but also of the relief of being able to introduce better quality coffee which he can be proud of. His talk was gritty and honest, giving a realistic side of the story from a small coffee shop which I’m sure many in the audience could relate to.

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Sang Ho Park from Square Mile Coffee Roasters then took the stage, introducing his topic ‘controlling and maintaining quality’. He explained that over the past few decades very little has changed in the way coffee cuppings are done but what was being done was not necessarily ‘reliable’ or ‘valid’. Cuppings need to provide data on which solid decisions can be made and this data would be affected by various factors. He presented different scenarios that he experienced at Square Mile and how he tried to overcome them, such as ensuring that coffee tastings aren’t done in a rush but at a regular scheduled time. He explained that successful coffee cupping sessions were important for a roastery to grow, to minimise waste and enable a more reliable roast to be sold.

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Dale Harris from Has Bean then took the stage, starting his talk questioning the future of the barista as equipment improves making brewing temperature more stable in coffee machines and features making extraction more repeatable. He proposed that the ‘perfect tamp’ and other skills that baristas will have perfected would now be useless as a machine would be able to replicate it consistently. Not being all doom and gloom, he then proposed the new job that will be required in the coffee industry - ‘The Coffee Professional’. Someone who is trained in coffee, understands the origins and can give the customer all of the information they need, also suggesting that a certification could also be put in place for such a position. As always Dale delivered his talk in a professional but lighthearted manner, engaging the audience while bringing to the forefront an important topic that will be effecting the industry as technology improves.

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Finally it was Mark Ashbridge from Established Coffee in Belfast, who had achieved a lot in a short space of time, as in 2013 he became Irish AeroPress Champion, the same year took fourth place in the World AeroPress Championships and then in December 2013 opened his own coffee shop Established Coffee. He spoke of his ambitions and the risk he took leaving his civil service job at the end of 2012 to realise his dream of opening a coffee shop, he sympathised with Ross Brown who spoke earlier about working in a coffee shop being a lifestyle rather than a job but his passion for coffee doesn’t make this a chore. He was a great end to Tamper Tantrum, as he spoke of the initiative and motivation needed for opening a coffee shop and doing it well using great quality coffee rather than looking to make a quick profit.

This was my first experience of Tamper Tantrum, although it did feel as if it was slightly more aimed at people working in the industry it did still keep me engaged as a consumer with the wide variety of talks and the different methods of delivery from being chatty to more educational. My notebook was full of notes by the end, full of all sorts of facts and figures. I left Tamper Tantrum knowing a great deal more than I did before and I think that Cup North made a good choice taking the leap in hosting this event.

“I left Tamper Tantrum knowing a great deal more than I did before and I think that Cup North made a good choice taking the leap in hosting this event.”

Following Tamper Tantrum, we then went to investigate GRUB to get some food. We had pulled pork soft tacos with yuca fries which were very tasty. As with the day before, stalls were starting to sell out showing how successful beyond everyone's expectations the event had been. After eating we headed back upstairs to the hall for one last look around the stalls before the end of the day.

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The weekend had flown by and we were sad that it was over. It had been a success, everyone seemed to be in high spirits and roasters were selling out of their stock, including Extract Coffee who had a tower of empty boxes by their stall. My coffee highlights of the weekend were speaking to the baristas at Grindsmith, the filter coffee from Small Batch Coffee and also chatting to North Star about their rebranding. Overall the organisers did a fantastic job throughout the weekend and it felt sad to leave as we caught our train back down to London that evening. Here’s hoping for a Cup North 2015!

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