Visitors to this year's Caffè Culture show at London's Olympia on 23-24 May will be looking for new ideas and new products. Ian Boughton finds there is no shortage of fresh thinking at the 2007 show
Beyond the Bean of Bristol (stand D17) is one of the café trade's most imaginative wholesalers. It will have its new catalogue out and several interesting new products. There is a new chai powder in three flavours - including the unusual cranberry - which can be made with milk, water or with steaming milk, as for a latte. There are also new Zuma frappé sachets, which the company thinks might be the first Fairtrade frappé mix. There are new sugar-free items in the Sweetbird range of flavoured syrups and sauces, with the company observing: "No point in serving a skinny latte if you don't have the sugar-free syrup."
The Bumper Gear collection of practical workwear and espresso kit includes an intriguing barista apron, which folds to three lengths and has pockets designed for the way the barista likes to work. It also features a lining made from the same fabric as wetsuits - no more soggy pockets, says the maker. The collection also includes tamper handles and stands and a new knock box.
Espresso Warehouse (stand A21), the influential Glasgow-based wholesaler to the café trade, will display a real mini-café bar to show just how its products can be presented in the most profitable way. The company has expanded its Wooden Spoon range of snacks and cakes, all of which are from small artisanal producers, and says that it has had particular success with items like the muffin loaf, which has a long shelf life. Espresso Warehouse will also be demonstrating summer drink ideas in anticipation of record-breaking temperatures. Talk on the stand will be of how to create inexpensive and profitable, yet relatively easy, iced Italian sodas, iced teas from its new Essenz flavours, and iced vanilla lattes. This includes a new variety of Breeze iced blended frappés with the interesting new Carrot & Apple flavour.
Cafédirect (stand D29) has innovations in both espresso and instant products. The brand wanted a new espresso to give it standing in the real coffee sector, and this will be the launch of a Fairtrade organic blend described as "lively and smooth". Look also for a novel promotion in soluble coffees: Cafédirect is promoting the countries of origin more heavily than is usual in the instant product.
The attention-getter at Capital Coffee (stand D28) is its focus on Colombia - the country whose government, more than any other, has successfully promoted the quality of its national product. Capital is working with both the Colombian Coffee Federation and Utz Kapeh, the ethical accreditation scheme, to explain just what is so good about this country's coffee and its methods.
Emmi (stand J6) was one of the surprises of last year's show, launching a coffee-related chilled product in a tub. This year Emmi has a new launch, Caffè Latte Caramello, following a flavour trend seen in both the hot and cold beverage markets. Although it is a chilled product, the maker emphasises the freshness of its coffee content - there is a daily roast and the drink is prepared and packaged within 48 hours.
The UK's first Fairtrade iced coffee, Herbert's, will be shown by Metro Drinks (stand H16). This is a ready-to-drink ambient product with a long shelf life, which can either be served over ice in a glass or stocked as a take-away bottle in the chiller. It uses real coffee rather than extracts, and the ingredients are sourced from farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa.
Although it does have full-bean coffees, the Nescafé Coffee Company (stand A1) has a point to make with its soluble coffees and will be challenging the trade to test the drinks produced by its Milano 4 machine. This is an automatic machine using soluble coffee but programmed to produce several of the drinks that the real-coffee sector would argue can be made only with roast-and-ground beans. This is the chance to taste and evaluate.
In espresso machines, the slogan "Back to the future" from Amore Coffee (stand C6) means it is showing lever machines, which were the way all espresso was brewed in the 1950s. Today they still offer the theatre that customers like but also, says Amore, they give better dosage and faster steam production than current machines and they have an extremely low maintenance requirement.
Bravilor (stand D11) says that some fully automatic espresso machines suffer from a lack of reliability, and it claims its new SCS range addresses all the reliability issues that have caused problems for others.
Coffee grinders do not always look pretty, but Compak (stand G9) has devised a series of them that look far less functional and utilitarian than many found in the trade.
The most dramatic display in the machines sector will come from Dalla Corte UK (stand B25), which will have two machines "talking" to each other. In this system, the espresso machine and the grinder record every shot dispensed and automatically correct any slips in the settings. The company will deliberately prepare bad espressos to show how the machine puts the settings right.
First Choice Coffee (stand D25) will launch the new modern design of its Swiss Black & White equip ment, now with enlarged brewing chamber for extra-large drinks, a new steam wand with temperature sensor, and "unlimited, inexhaustible steam". It has another practical benefit: reduced height - so the machine does not get in the way of staff-customer interaction.
Marco Beverage Systems (stand C34) concentrates on the difficulties of serving bulk filter coffee in a catering situation. Its research has been used by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe in setting up the Gold Cup standard for filter coffee. This is the same work that has gone into the new Filtro Shuttle, which will make its UK debut at the show. It is a compact bulk brewer which brews filter coffee directly into a six-litre insulated and removable urn. The full urn can go to a remote location for serving but will keep coffee hot with "minimal deterioration" for more than an hour, thus making it useful for hotels and conference centres. "When brewed and stored correctly, filter coffee delivers a satisfying taste," says the company. "We hope to lead a renaissance in filter coffee."
The Really Sensible Trading Company (stand J25) offers a challenging approach to cafetière design, not just in the shapes and striking colours, which match its mugs, but also in the plunger mechanism - as it slides down inside the body, it closes up the gaps so no grounds can get through into the brew.
Tea Goetz (stand A7) has a fascinating product in the T-Sac, a kind of individual catering-size tea bag, which makes it possible to keep a range of loose teas and brew them easily without causing a mess in the prep area.
Several tea companies have turned to the concept of the pyramid infuser, but Daily Grind (stand C33) will be offering whole-leaf tea in foil-sealed pouches. Properly brewed whole-leaf tea will, says the company, sit well alongside cappuccino in terms of gross profit margin.
Mighty Leaf (stand B12) has invented a silk stitched tea pouch that allows for easy handling and portion control of its signature whole-leaf blends. These include fruit pieces, spices and flavours that are too big for ordinary tea bags. For full effect, the company advises presenting the entire pouch before brewing so customers know they are getting something distinctive.
Teapigs (stand A23) makes its first appearance at the show. The company has little time for "the pomp and self-righteousness surrounding tea" and instead believes in fun products, fun packaging, and the enjoyment of imaginative teas. Look for the chocolate and white teas, and also the rice tea, which is a traditional tea invented by Japanese peasants who added toasted rice to tea leaves to make their supplies go further.
Bunn (stand J29) is a company known for its hi-tech digital approach to bulk coffee brewing, so a surprise will be the arrival of machines for granitas, frozen slushies, iced coffee and juice. The Italian Beverage Company (stand F25) will show what might be the smallest granita machine available.
The appearance of the Squell fruit juice cooler on the Coburg (H25) stand will be an attention-getter. This is a German refrigerated unit that holds two dispensing boxes side by side, thus offering a choice of, perhaps, apple and orange juices while storing a third box in chill at the same time. The juices on offer are 100% fruit juices.
Biscuits and cakes
Edinburgh-based coffee roaster Brodies (stand C24) has a unique feature for a coffee roaster in its selection of fine chocolates, including a berry selection that won a Great Taste award, and a thorough selection of speciality fruit cakes, all of which are baked in small batches and are presented in individual gift tins.
A recent newcomer to Britain is the Byron Bay Cookie Company (stand D20), which has devised a new kind of biscotti, the snack served with espresso-based drinks. The product is based on the classic item but with "distinct, interesting flavour combinations that will definitely complement the espresso bar experience", says the company. Pistachio & Kaffir Lime contains big chunks of pistachio, there is a Choc & Almond with Rosemary, and a Caffe Amaretto made with espresso coffee mixed with almond chunks and infused with amaretto liqueur.
There has been a rise in the number of artisan bakers producing for the catering trade, and Just Cakes (stand F33) is a London-based one which says it avoids the trap the big bakers fall into: too many ingredients. Typically, the chocolate truffle torte has only three items in it. There is an interesting arrangement on initial and trial orders for serious enquirers, with the company saying that "minimum order demands just make customers feel bad".
The Handmade Cake Company (stand D6) is the baker whose catering clients occasionally take credit for its cleverly branded items. There are new items such as a Chocolate Fruit & Nut Tiffin and a Maple & Pecan Slice, which both benefit from the introduction of a high-quality British chocolate. There will be a new Tropical Ginger Loaf, a twist on a classic British cake, and a new cake inspired by the poires belle hélène dessert, now called Chocolate, Pear & Rum Cake.
The coffee brand Lavazza (stand C25) has two very different new products. One of the most novel on show will be Tandem, which is a mousse served in a cup with a vertical divide so that the coffee is served in one half and the mousse in the other. There is also a new Lavazza biscuit. This is almond coated in chocolate, intended to be something special to pop on the saucer beside the coffee.
There is more to chocolate than meets the eye, says Monbana UK (stand C12), and for a profitable extension of café trade, caterers might investigate the idea of flavoured hot chocolate. There is, as yet, no real flavoured hot chocolate market in the UK, but additions such as vanilla, caramel and orange change the whole concept of the drink. Monbana also invented the Neapolitan chocolate portion and has a new selection on offer, as well as a new machine for chilled chocolate drinks.
A chocolate product which has begun to appear is the stirrer - it is chocolate on a stick, which the customer stirs into a mug of hot milk. The Choc-o-Lait company, part of Projuice (stands E9 and M26), has devised a stir-stick product flavoured with Cointreau.
NRG (stand C30) provided personalised shirts and aprons for all those involved in the finals of the UK barista championship. Over the past year its range of workwear has expanded considerably, and some big names have begun to discover the company's services.
In café furniture, intriguing items from Inside Out Contracts (stand E2) include the Fizz stackable chair for outdoor use in transparent colours, and the Candyfloss chair, which comes in a scented version.
Planglow (stand G5) has a completely new packaging product in its biodegradable baguette pack. It uses a biodegradable plastic derived from corn starch.
A new promotional tactic is on show from Quickfire Tableware (stand C8), a specialist in overprinted crockery. It has come up with One Free Cup, a ceramic token that can be branded for a café to serve as a reward or incentive.
Sweetbird sugar-free coffee flavouring syrups, the Bumper tamper and stand, and the lined barista apron are all from wholesaler Beyond the Bean
Caffe Culture 2007
Where National Hall, Olympia, London
When Wednesday 23 May 9.30am-6pm Thursday 24 May 9.30am-5pm
As well as the exhibitors there will be a programme of demonstrations, tastings and seminars, including workshops by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe.
For more information on the show, registration and bookings visit www.caffeculture.com.