Northeast Coffee Festival this weekend

By Chloe Rattee

Monitor staff

Coffee and tea amateurs and professionals will flock to downtown Concord on May 10 and 11 to experience the Northeast Coffee Festival. The free outside portion of the event will include two full days of live music and over 30 local vendors. Coffee and tea workshops at the Bank of NH stage, Hotel Concord, and Red River Theatre will require the purchase of a one- or two-day pass.

“[It’s] about celebrating that we want you to like the coffee, so how can we help you in that? You know, there is a coffee for everyone: some people like it black, some people like a shot of espresso, some people like flavored coffee, lattes, some people like tea,” said festival founder and co-founder of Wayfarer Roasters, Karen Bassett. “So there’s so much to it and none of it’s wrong.”

The Northeast Coffee Festival has been a one-day festival in Laconia the past two years. Bassett said that they’ve moved to Concord to be in a more central location, and because their city host, downtown coffee shop Revelstoke, has such a big role this year. They decided to expand the event into two days to spread out the 40 workshops to maximize educational opportunities. Bassett said that the first-come first-serve classes were jam-packed in past years, and hopes the additional class times will help everyone get the best value for their ticket.

“This is just an incredible opportunity for people to learn about coffee wherever they are in their journey,” Bassett said. “You can know nothing about coffee and still have so much takeaway from these workshops, or you could be an experienced coffee professional and be inspired, challenged, encouraged, connected to other coffee professionals through this. So it really is for everyone, which is really cool.”

Forty trained and certified coffee professionals and industry leaders will be leading espresso and home brewing workshops, coffee-tasting sessions, and panel discussions. The producer of a coffee mini-series will be attending a screening at the Red River Theatre and doing a live Q&A afterwards.

Producers from as far as Oregon, Honduras and Columbia will also be making the trip. Bassett said that part of the festival is about learning where your coffee is coming from, which ties into their effort to use all local vendors and connect with the community.

“You want specialty coffee to be approachable, accessible, you want to learn about it, learn about the story where the coffee comes from, the coffee farmer, meet people in the industry with all different types of careers, whether they’re roasters, cafe owners, coffee producers, importers, all of those will be present at this festival,” Bassett said. “The more I can share the stories about where it comes from, how your purchase of coffee is impacting not only your local community, but the community in which the coffee was grown, that’s really important.”

The two-day expansion also gives more time for the community to explore the free part of the festival. It’s less focused on coffee, though coffee vendors will be present. Coffee lovers and haters alike can appreciate the local fare and food trucks, live music, and the “play zone” with yard games and puppies.

Bassett said that support from the Concord community was essential in supplying the street part of the event free and full of things to do. Revelstoke’s help in planning and connecting with locals businesses was also instrumental in the festival coming together. You’ll see Alex, one of the owners of the business, MC’ing the latte art throwdown Saturday afternoon. Bassett said he has a lot of experience and “puts on a good show.”

The throwdown will be free to view, and the Bank of NH Stage will be selling beer and wine. They expect 30-60 competitors and are hoping for a big audience.

“Two people go head to head, they pour a latte in a certain design. So each round, you do a different design. Like, okay, you’re going to do the Rosetta, or a tulip, or a heart, you know,” Bassett said. “There’s a few judges, and whoever wins wins that round. It’s kind of like a blind, judging, like the two cups are put up on the big screen, and the judges will point to which one they feel like wins the round.”

Bassett said that they put a lot of work into prizes to help influence people to be brave and compete, but altogether the event is not a serious competition, just a fun way to culminate the festival and the community it’s serving.

They’re expecting six to eight thousand people over the two days, and have seen people coming all the way from California, but participants are mostly made up of northeastern enthusiasts.

When Bassett and her husband first moved to Laconia from Portland, Oregon in 2008, they didn’t find any sort of coffee community. After collaborating with a friend and opening Wayfarer Roasters, they had a role in fostering the downtown community that the city was attempting to bring back. Not only is there a growing downtown community, but a growing coffee community in Laconia and in the state.

“It’s finally happening where it feels like a coffee community in this area,” Bassett said. “It’s awesome. I think any awareness to quality and excellence, and appreciation for the craft is valuable to the industry as a whole. And to just, you know, it’s kind of like the movements of Local Food and Farm to Table and all that stuff is like, know where your food comes from. Care about that. That’s part of the story. That’s part of what you’re supporting, coffee is no different.”

For additional information, tickets, and latte art throwdown sign-ups, go to Tickets can also be purchased at the Bank of NH Stage box office.

Author: The Concord Insider

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