North East Coffee Festival

16 Mar

I am extraordinarily tired, dear reader(s).
Things are going very very well in Afternoon Tease – this is a great thing, but it leaves me even less time for everything else I am trying to do at once. And as usual, I am not doing myself any favours.

I should have learnt already to be careful what I put out on the internet. A while ago, I read about UK Coffee Week– a fantastic initiative raising money for Project Waterfall, who provide clean water and sanitation for coffee growing regions in Africa. The main event for the week is the London Festival of Coffee. GAH. London. Again. I can’t afford to get to London, and neither do I want to. So I put a seemingly innocuous comment on Twitter: “Why do all these things happen in London? Why don’t we have our own up here?”
Obviously that week was a slow news week. Within 2 hours of posting that, I got a call from the Northern Echo newspaper: “Can you tell us about the coffee festival please?” erm… what coffee festival?? I ended up doing a “ca for interest” – I do love the idea of having a festival of coffee up here; there are very many coffee shops in the north east that serve very very good coffee nowadays, the gourmet market is definitely NOT limited to London any more. I think a festival like this would highlight the quality and talent available in this region. So the bit in the paper was really just to see if anyone else shared these ideals.
Then, BBC Radio Tees picked up on this as well so I toddled off to Middlesbrough and did an interview about it there as well.
I did get a great response – not, unfortunately so enthusiastic from other coffee shops, but certainly on Twitter and Facebook, and from customers in my cafe.
I did an invite drop, went round 15 other coffee shops in Darlington saying “get in touch if you want to get involved!” Everyone I managed to speak to in the cafes said “oh, thats a great idea, we’d love to” – but then only one out of 15 contacted me again.
However, through quite a bit of badgering, I’ve managed to get some events organised for the week: one place roasts their own coffee on the premises so they’ve agreed to do roasting workshops, we’re also coffee tasting and I’m gonna do some barista classes in Afternoon Tease.  I am also doing a Coffee Treasure hunt, with a map of Darlo marking all the participating coffee shops (about half a dozen of them, though only one independent has bothered to sign up with UK Coffee week properly and apparently I have to include all three branches of Costa as the whole chain has got involved :-S)  The idea is, if anyone goes to every coffee shop on the map, I’ll do a small prize for them, plus 5p off every cup of coffee sold in those shops goes to Project Waterfall; it encourages people to try places that they may not normally visit, and therefore promotes all the participating businesses too. This isn’t much to ask, and it could have a lot of benefit. If you are reading this and you have a coffee shop in Darlington, please take the hint!!
I was also planning on doing an event in Darlington market square, with a latte art competition and some stalls (including non-coffee ones) as a sort of finale. I thought things were going well with it because the council seemed very amenable to the idea, but right now I am having a major struggle trying to find public liability insurance to cover it (anyone care to bet the council £10,000000 that I WON’T kill someone with a coffee tamper?). And then there is all the bureaucracy and red tape, like risk assessment forms “Risk of public spilling hot drinks on themselves. Risk lessened by putting lids on disposable cups.” – I kid ye not. I was so tempted to put “Risk allieviated by refusing to serve hot drinks to those with an IQ smaller than their shoe size”. Given the minimal enthusiasm from other businesses regarding the stalls it is highly tempting to give up on this idea all together. I hate giving up on things but this is not exactly being made easy for me right now!!

Further sensible, and less sarcastic, information about the North East Coffee Festival can be found at

And if this has in any way convinced you to get involved, I really look forward to hearing from you!


Posted by on March 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “North East Coffee Festival

  1. Peter

    March 18, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Maybe its gonna take more than an invite drop to get the People or Dralington interested in your dream !

    Did you consider widening the scope of the event and including Tea
    I suspect more than 50% of the population would be more interested in Tea

    M’be you should have made contact with the local traders association (who know little of your event) and ask for their help/support/apathy.

    • drcoffee

      March 20, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      there’s a local traders’ association? I’ve done what I can in the local press, on BBC Tees radio and with Darlo council, the market traders and the coffee shops. I can’t really help it if the traders’ association don’t read the paper, listen to the radio, shop in Darlington nor have any contact with the council…

      I’ve got a tea stall for the main event in the square championing the rights of tea drinkers, but this is all in aid of UK Coffee Week. If there is ever a nationwide Tea week, I’ll do something similar!

  2. Peter

    March 21, 2011 at 11:05 am

    Yes there is a Darlington Town Centre Traders Association the current Chairman is John Coxon from Leggs in Skinnergate.

    You may also find it interesting that other board members include the Town Centre Manager and Alan Draper the Chairman of the Market Society. If you wish to get more info about the association I would try Richard from the Councils Town Centre Management team on 01325 388665 or drop in to see John

    Good news on the the Tea.


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