1st Annual Los Angeles Coffee Festival

Our fearless leader Heather Allen was lucky to be able to attend the first annual Los Angeles Coffee Festival at The Magic Box @ The Reef in Downtown L.A. on Saturday November 10th and Sunday November 11th. Read on to hear all about her experience as well as insight about the festival’s featured charity partner Project Waterfall, coffee liquor sponsor Mr. Black, and the Coffee Music Project competition.

Photo Courtesy of The Los Angeles Coffee Festival

We are delighted to be bringing the Coffee Festival to the West Coast for the first time this year. Los Angeles is a city of culture and creativity, and coffee and food play a huge part in the fabric of L.A. life.

– Allegra Group CEO Jeffrey Young
Photo Courtesy of Heather Allen

The Who’s Who of the Los Angeles Coffee Festival

I had attended the Saturday and Sunday afternoon portions of the festival and let’s just say the room was abuzz with genuine excitement for everything coffee. While tickets were being sold for certain time slots (morning-night for Saturday and morning-afternoon for Sunday), the number of hours available for one to take advantage of the free samples provided by the vendors was surely enough time to catch some jitters. Luckily, there’s more than enough fun and exciting things to check out during your time.

The festival coordinators did a wonderful job with giving attendees a balanced mix of well-known coffee product manufacturers (Bodum, La Marzocco, Brevelle, Coffee Machine Depot, etc.), independent coffee roasters (Tectonic Coffee, G&B, Common Room Roasters, etc.), and of course local coffeeshops (Cognoscenti Coffee, Go Get Em Tiger, Good People Coffee, Coffee Cartel, etc.).  While each booth had its own unique design to showcase their brand to each attendee passing by, they always made sure that at least one smiling face was waiting to greet them and answer any questions that they may have on their offerings.

If you’re looking to learn a little more about techniques, specific brands, or a quick refresher on what’s trending in the world of coffee, The Lab and Tasting Room sessions are exactly what you’re looking for. Informative seminars from professional coffee mixologists, baristas, and publications remind you of the many aspects of the coffee industry that are equally as important as the bean itself. 

Looking for a snack? The Kitchen provided showcases with chefs from local cafes Triniti, Go Get Em Tiger, Destroyer, and Pollen. If you wandered around the booths, you would not only run into a fair amount of samples, but also find that a few companies providing nourishment for a donation. Top off your mini meal with a few tasters or spice things up with a specialty coffee cocktail infused with liquor sponsors Grey Goose and Mr. Black Cold Brew Coffee Liquor

You’re A Smooth One…Mr.Black

Who says coffee is just for daytime drinking? I myself don’t think so and Australian roasting and distilling coffee liquor company Mr. Black agrees. In fact, the entire mission for their starting their business was to “take Australia’s coffee culture into the night.” From 2013 until now, Mr. Black has expanded internationally and makes us crave a classic Espresso Martini, a coffee-fied Old-Fashioned, and of course, the ever-popular White Russian.

“Coffee is such an integral part of so many people’s day, so we’re just kind of trying to show people that you don’t have to stop drinking coffee at like 5:00 p.m. It’s something that can go with a meal as like an aperitif or after a meal as like a digestive, just  showing the different possibilities to flavor with coffee.”

– Mr. Black Brand Ambassador Alix Nardella

Art + Coffee = A Divine Pairing

The Los Angeles Coffee Festival had strived to not only showcase many beloved coffee-related brands, but to also bring to light the arts aspect that has been growing popular in our modern coffee society. With regularly scheduled events such as Latte Art Live and the Coffee Music Project performances to visual segments brought to life in The Movie Room and the Coffee Art Project gallery, there was bound to be something arts-y to would strike your fancy.

Latte art in and of itself has become a new way for baristas to highlight their individuality and creativity in their work both in person and online, in which #latteart has been used over 5 million times and is growing with every passing day.

Coffee Music Project Highlights The Art Of Songwriting

In the center of the festival snuggled right in between LeePoofs Cotton Candy and the wonderful coffee cocktail bar lies the stage that would be introducing attendees to past and present Coffee Music Project contestants. Circle around tall bar tables or claim your spot on a comfy couch to relax and take in the sounds of original works that highlight the songwritership of the artist pouring their hearts out to us.

The 2018 Los Angeles Coffee Music Project music competition started with narrowing down their applicants to 36 musicians, and from there 25 contestants continued on to perform in a series of live events that aided in raising funds for Project Waterfall. Each show then narrowed down the contestants until a total of nine acts were chosen to compete in the finals, in which they were to perform original work and a song written about Los Angeles per the theme of the contest.

Mid-city music venue The Mint housed the final competition with 2018 New York Coffee Music Project winner Samantha Rise opening us up with MJ Ultra closing the night.

The packed house was in for a treat as the top nine finalists took the stage to win their hearts. The audience not only was able to enjoy an evening of great music, but they were also invited to submit a vote via provided ballot that would be used in the case that the judges were unable to declare a clear winner. Female-fronted indie group Milk came in third place with synth-blues songstress Marlaina Smith as the runner-up to 21-year old indie-pop soloist Madeleine Mayi.

Mayi was gifted a cash prize and will be performing at the 2019 London Coffee Festival. Remaining finalists included: The Ateliers, Elovay, Olivia Morreale, Trevor Wesley, Willow Stephens, and Maddi Jane.

The judging panel included: Evan Griffith, Rollo Spreckley, Holiday Sidewater, Tricia Fontreau-Ramos, and Kristen Woodward.

“I personally don’t like the format of a lot of those competition shows because I feel like they perpetuate this idea that music is just for entertainment and not for art expression purposes….People need to express themselves, and if they’re not doing it in an original and unique way then what’s the point in even doing it?”

– Los Angeles Coffee Music Project 2018 Winner Madeleine Mayi

The Coffee Art Project played a huge part in the Los Angeles Coffee Festival. Not only did they have a gallery filled with coffee-themed artwork from this year’s competition winners, but those art pieces were being sold to benefit Project Waterfall. Now what exactly is ‘coffee-themed?’ Well, the pieces being showcases were created to represent the artist’s own connection to the concept of  ‘coffee’ or a ‘coffee shop experience.’ From a zebra painted with coffee and the cast of Friends designed in coffee beans, the creativity and inspirations that the artists portrayed in the their work was a sight to see.

Photo Courtesy of The Los Angeles Coffee Festival

The Coffee Art Project also used the Los Angeles Coffee Festival as a way to introduce a new segment to their program – film. Launched for the first time here in L.A., ‘Film Edition’ curated a series of coffee-inspired short films from independent filmmakers as well as those taking part in the competition aspect to be screened in The Movie Room. Now if only we could get the films to be in 4D so we can also smell the coffee.

The Star of the Show: Project Waterfall

Both the Los Angeles Coffee Festival and the Coffee Music Project competition turned their events into something more than just a few days for attendees to interact with like-minded individuals with their partnership with Project Waterfall . As the charity of choice for the coffee industry, its ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the constant struggle to obtain clean drinking water that many parts of the world possess while also taking action in creating programs in the areas that provide us with the very product that brings us joy – coffee. A percentage of the earnings from ticket sales, donations, and purchases will be aiding efforts to end water poverty, which sets a wonderful example for the ever-growing coffee community to take notice of.

We’re not a company that wants to go and provide something, spend the money, and then not be able to care for the communities that are out there…We’re not going to just do something that’s already happening. We want to work with the people on the ground whether it’s through charity, water, or working with any other charities that are already doing a good job.

– Project Waterfall Representative Emily

For our first coffee festival since our inception, The Los Angeles Coffee Festival, along with the Coffee Music Project Finals, was certainly the best for us to start off with. We were able to cover the aspects of what this blog strives to be, an interviewing blog with a focus on music that also shows appreciation for the coffee industry. Did I wish that I had a clone so I was able to take part in every possible activity, seminar, showcase, etc. that was available to me through each day of attendance? Absolutely! But in the meantime, we will always have the heavily caffeinated memories to look back on and hope to make many more in the upcoming years!

Check out the Los Angeles Coffee Festival on their WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Check out the Coffee Music Project on their WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Check out the Coffee Art Project on their WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Check out Project Waterfall on their Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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