Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NW Coffee Festival, because who doesn't like coffee?

During my career as an *cough* esteemed *cough* blogger, I've been to beer festivals, wine festivals, car festivals, food festivals, music festivals, shrimp festivals, shrimp boat festivals, and shrimp boat net festivals. A coffee festival, however, was a new one and I just had to check it out. You see, I love coffee, in somewhat of an unhealthy way. Love would be putting it lightly. Need, perhaps, is the more accurate descriptor and the Northwest Coffee Festival in Seattle on June 18 - 19, 2011 was the nexus of all things caffeinated. A beer and wine garden at the event sealed the deal, and on a sunny Sunday afternoon I found myself at the Fisher Pavilion of Seattle Center with my friend David to see what it was all about.

An event designed to bring together coffee lovers, baristas, and roasters to get an entirely different kind of buzz than you're likely used to reading WestToast, the Northwest Coffee Festival was billed as featuring espresso bars, slow-pour coffee bars, live music, educational sessions, hands-on demonstrations, and food. Ah yes, food. With 10 coffee producers and 9 food vendors on-hand, I was pretty darn stoked to dive in and get my coffee on.

David and I paid our $15, received 6 tasting tickets, and headed into the madness to check things out. While 6 tickets may seem a little light on the tasting, all slow-pour coffee and many food vendors had free offerings. Espresso drinks were two tickets and beverages of the alcoholic variety where three. After doing a lap around the joint, dodging hyper-caffeinated attendees left and right, we decided to start with Dahlia Lounge's food booth. It's Tom Douglas so you know it'll be good, and the slow-roasted espresso ancho pork in a house made biscuit certainly didn't disappoint. Time for coffee!

David's favorite roaster is Victrola, a perfect starting point for afternoon. I got a latte, which was amazing, and we both chatted with the barista as he did a slow-pour of a Rwanda Ruli Musasa Co-op drip coffee for us. I took a sip and in addition to the obvious notes of coffee, I felt something familiar. I looked up to the menu board, and as I read the description of the coffee it all became clear:

Red fruits, wine-like acidity, and a light syrupy body define the Rwanda. The finish compliments with notes of clove and allspice.

Of course, wine! It had every bit of the complexity of a nice glass of Washington red.  Seriously, though, this was a unique roast and the more we talked to the artisan barista about the means and methods behind growing beans, roasting techniques, and brewing techniques, the more I truly realized that coffee is an art form in the same way that our beloved beer, wine, and spirits are. PS, the coffee was delicious. After Victrola, we hit a few more coffee producers and topped it off with a stop at the beloved Theo Chocolate booth. That's right, chocolate.

After thoroughly getting hyped up on way too much caffeine, we spend a good half-hour watching the latte art competition. It's exactly as it sounds, local baristas competing to make the most beautiful latte possible.  As the event winded down, we had only one place left to visit:  the NW Beer, Wine, and Cider Garden.  Rick has been hyping up local cider so much lately I was stoked to give it a try. Well friends, if there was only one disappointment of the festival it was the NW Beer, Wine, and Cider Garden. They were out of cider, all of the wine selections were from France, and there were only two Northwest beers left on tap. They were good and rest assured, I tried them both, but it was a far cry from what I had anticipated. It was a coffee festival, though, and I got plenty of that so who am I to cast stones?

It was a splendid afternoon and one during which I learned far more than I expected to about the art and craft of coffee.  Tomorrow morning, as I sip on my organic breakfast blend from the local grocery store as I try to wake up on the bus, I'll have a new appreciation for everything that goes into my morning fix.


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