New products and plenty of tea at Coffee Fest New York
The city that never sleeps will be well caffeinated this month as two coffee (and tea) shows are taking place in March: Coffee Fest New York (3-5) and the Coffee & Tea Festival NYC (23-24).
This is the first Coffee Fest I have attended since 2016 when the trade show was last held in NYC. It appeared smaller than the previous NYC one, but the show certainly benefitted from co-locating with the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York and Healthy Food Expo, because even thirty minutes before the show ended on its final day, the aisles were well trafficked. Exhibitors noted that in addition to the strong attendance (impressive considering the snowstorm that occurred on the opening day along with bitterly cold temperatures the following days), they had quality meetings (restaurants, hotels and retailers) and many wrote orders on the show floor.
While most of the companies were not introducing new products, I did come across two first-time exhibitors that were debuting new products. New York-based Scarlata Coffee was showcasing two Robusta coffees from Vietnam: Serenity, which is 100% Robusta (MSRP USD $11.99 per 12oz bag of whole beans) and Solace, which is 80% Robusta and 20% Arabica (MSRP $12.99 per 12oz bag). The coffees are being promoted as “100% Vietnamese,” not that they are Robusta blends. The founder/owner, Victor Scarlata, said that both Fairway, a high-end grocery chain in NYC, and Facebook had expressed interest.
A few years ago, the coffee buyer from Fairway participated in a retail panel at an NCA Summit that I attended. He mentioned how savvy, finicky and demanding Fairway’s coffee consumers are — they want specialty coffees that are Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Organic certified, as well as single origin and single estate coffees. Given that, I’ll be curious to see how Robusta blends will perform at Fairway. Taste is subjective, so if the consumers are unaware that the coffee is not Arabica but is from a single origin and trying to promote Vietnamese coffee culture, Serenity and Solace may find fans.
A-Town Coffee Roasters, based in Anchorage, Alaska was debuting coffee that provides “sustained energy.” The Arabica coffee (region varies) is hand-roasted with grass-fed ghee butter. The founder and CEO, Micheal Tuttle, said that the ghee butter, which is also added post-roasting, “provides healthy fats and is rich in vitamins A, D and E, and delivers a non-chemical source of increased energy while empowering mental clarity and optimizing digestion.” She noted that A-Town coffee is ideal for “anyone who wants a coffee that has an added lift and makes you feel more energized.” A-Town is available in whole bean and ground (MSRP $19.95 per 12oz bag), K-Cups (MSRP $18.95 per box) and cold brew (MSRP $5.95 each). I’m not fond of any butter-roasted coffee (or prepared coffee that has butter added to it) but as the rollout of functional coffees on the market escalates, there’s a demographic that these types of coffees will appeal to.
I’m familiar with the work of the Arbor Day Foundation, which in the coffee industry, aims to reduce the risk of deforestation by helping players in the coffee supply chain to support better practices and ease the impact of coffee production on the environment. However, I was not aware that the foundation has been marketing its own coffee, Arbor Day Coffee, since the 1990s. The coffee (five products in the line) is grown “in harmony with the rainforest” and supports farmers who help preserve and protect critical ecosystems. The retail coffees are available in whole bean, ground, pods, and there is a wholesale program as well.
Perhaps what surprised me the most at Coffee Fest, was the abundance of tea exhibitors. Tea companies such as Brew Lab Tea, Dona Chai, Esteemed Tea Collective, ITO EN, Metropolitan Tea Company, Piper & Leaf Tea Company, Republic of Tea, Rishi Tea, Royal Tea of New York, Sanctuary Chai, SerendipiTea, and Wise Ape Tea, to name just a few. As with coffee, most of the tea companies were not introducing new products, but all claimed to be having a “great show.” Los Angeles-based Esteemed Tea Collective, a year-old company specializing in Taiwanese oolong teas, was one of the few introducing a new product. The product line includes Honey Black Oolong, Fire Roasted Oolong, Ruby Oolong, and the new Calming GABA, which features gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid that has been shown to have anti-stress and anti-anxiety benefits (studies have shown a possible link between GABA and lowered blood pressure, but research is lacking).
The next Coffee Fest shows will take place in Indianapolis, Indiana (31 May – 2 June), Los Angeles (25-27 August) and the Pacific Northwest (15-16 November). The next Coffee Fest New York will be held 8-10 March 2020. For more information, visit: www.coffeefest.com.