Inaugural NOLA Coffee Festival debuts this Friday

Taking place 15-16 September in New Orleans, the NOLA Coffee Festival is designed to be a celebration of all things coffee in one of America’s most historic coffee cities.

This two-day event, which takes place at the Ernest M Morial Convention Center, combines industry trade show classes with a consumer coffee festival atmosphere The trade and industry day (targeting regional coffee shop owners, baristas, coffee buyers for grocery stores and F&B directors) takes place on 15 September. On the 16th, the show opens its doors to consumers to experience the exhibit hall, lectures and skills classes, including special classes for home brewing. More than a dozen of the south’s leading roasters will have their coffee available for free sampling.

NOLA Coffee Festival co-founder Kevin Richards points out that New Orleans is a natural location for a serious coffee industry event: “The Port of New Orleans is [one of the largest points] of entry for green coffee in the United States. Accordingly, we have more than a thousand industrial coffee jobs here. [Folgers, PJs Coffee and Reily Foods] all roast here. Those are industrial coffee giants and all that imported green coffee passes through the Port of New Orleans. Our city of a natural leader in coffee.”

Echoing that sentiment, Felton Jones, chief roastmaster, PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans, shared, “The Port of New Orleans provides a sizeable contribution to the amount of coffee imported into the US, and this festival helps to highlight the role that New Orleans plays in the industry. With major brands like Folgers, Community Coffee, and PJ’s Coffee calling New Orleans home, I think New Orleans has been grossly under appreciated by the coffee industry — [and yet, the city has] so much to offer to the industry. I feel this was a big part in the decision of the organisers to create this unique experience for the local coffee heads.”

Jones noted that the NOLA Coffee Festival will allow these local brands to be on display for all to see. “The embracing of micro-roasters and small coffee shop owners to take part in this event not only gives them a place to unify and know that they are in great company locally, but it also gives them an opportunity to [become noticeable to the industry outside of New Orleans as the event grows]. This is [a chance] for everyone else to see that there is more to New Orleans than coffee and chicory,” he said, adding, “we absolutely have some passionate and dedicated roasters and baristas in our community, and this will be their [moment] to shine!”

Coffee education is a focal point of the NOLA Coffee Festival. “We’re seeking to bring together coffee industry professionals and coffee enthusiasts alike under one roof for learning, collaboration and good times. We expect the outcome to be a stronger regional coffee scene,” explained Richards. “Our focus in building the coffee education platform has been to solicit speakers who are southern coffee subject matter experts. In New Orleans alone, our city is estimated to serve 20 million cups of coffee annually. We can double that number for consumption across the Gulf South region.”

In terms of education sessions, NOLA Coffee Festival speakers include:

  • Felton Jones, chief roastmaster for PJs coffee, who will lead a roaster best practices roundtable;
  • Andrea Allen, Onyx Coffee owner and national barista champion, who will talk about her recent documentary and lead a barista class on ‘How to be Effective in Barista Competition Events’;
  • Chris Kornman, green coffee expert and education director for Royal Coffee, who will lead classes on Arabica and the coffee flavour wheel;
  • Rhiannon Enlil, NOLA cocktail expert, who will lead an exploration of cocktail innovation using coffee as the key flavour ingredient.
  • Poppy Tooker, Louisiana food writer and food historian, who will explain the significance of African American calas cakes and their use by 19th century enslaved women to purchase their freedom;
  • Trey Malone, co-owner of Common Co-Labs and Northshore Specialty Coffee in Mississippi, who will lead discussion on the cold coffee extraction method and RTD cold coffee product trends;
  • Noah Namowicz, svp of Café Imports, who will lead a geopolitical discussion of the current global coffee landscape;
  • Liz Williams, NOLA food historian and founder of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, who will lead talks on the coffee heritage of New Orleans and the importance of the Port of New Orleans.
  • Suzanne Stone, book author and docent at the Historic New Orleans Collection, who will lead a review of historical and current female coffee leaders in New Orleans;
  • Bob Arceneaux, owner of Orleans Coffee and regional coffee leader, who will explore modern coffee blend strategies;
  • Lauren Fink, owner of Cherry Coffee and NOLA coffee leader, who will lead roaster roundtable discussions;
  • Miguel Gomez, PhD candidate at University of Houston, who will introduce his new research to reveal why Robusta is now in position as a ‘first to market value driver in the U.S. market’;
  • Eric Brenner, assistant director at the Center for Coffee Research at Texas A&M, who will lead a review of rust resistance data in Central America and provide action items for farmers there to convert their arabica varieties;
  • Anna Guiterrez, director of brand development at Barista 22, who will lead classes on coffee shop menu development and innovating signature coffee drinks;
  • Melissa Dixon, a lead educator at La Marzocco, who will lead a session on foundational espresso tasting and brewing development;
  • Deniseea Taylor, social media blogger for Chicken and Champagne, who will relate new coffee and cocktail creations to the black heritage roots that inspired them;
  • Zella Palmer, director of the Ray Charles African American Program at Dillard University, who will air her award-winning documentary The Black Hand Stirs the Pot and discuss the impact of creole cooking in New Orleans cuisine; and
  • Prince De’Araujo Lobo, creative director at Addis Nola Ethiopian Restaurant, who will deliver a daily Ethiopian coffee blessing for the exhibit hall and in the classrooms.

“Coffee education is a key need in our region,” said event co-founder Jim Currie. “Of the 3,500 coffee shops located in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, very, very few have ever attended a national coffee conference or training event. We want to flip that around and make great coffee education easily accessible for the thousands of baristas, coffee shop owners/managers and green coffee roasters that work in the gulf south.” He believes that better networking and better classroom discussion will directly lead to new coffee innovations, noting, “Southern chefs have always been national trendsetters and culinary flavour leaders. It is no different for our work in coffee.”

Richards added that visitors to the NOLA Coffee Festival “can expect to taste over 25 coffees from our regional roaster community, take part in over 60 hours of free coffee education, interface with companies from across the coffee industry, hear talks from New Orleans’ finest historians about the roots of coffee in New Orleans, watch exciting barista competitions, experiment with home and commercial coffee equipment, explore artwork from our coffee community, meet coffee farmers from Central and South America, and more. And, of course, you be able to find a fantastic cup of chicory coffee.”

To register for the NOLA Coffee Festival, or for more information, click here.

  • Aubrye McDonagh Leigh

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