This weekend (Nov. 9-11), Music Hall will be energized with the excitement — and caffeine — of the second annual Cincinnati Coffee Festival. The historic, renovated venue will host a gaggle of vendors and artisanal coffee aficionados, ready to share samples of their coffee and more.
Now is a special time in the history of coffee; the popularization of coffee as a product has been described in terms of “waves” — the first wave was when coffee became a drink for the masses, creating a coffeehouse culture in the 1800s. The second wave of coffee happened in the 1970s, when specialty coffees gained popularity.
The third wave of coffee, which began in the early 2000s and continues now, has yielded an increased focus on the bean: how it is grown and roasted, and how the beans are blended to create unique flavor profiles that really blossom in an extremely fresh, hand-prepared cup of coffee.
The Cincinnati Coffee Festival — the largest such gathering in the Midwest — allows visitors to delve deeper into (or experience for the first time) third-wave artisan and specialty coffees. The weekend will consist of educational workshops, vendors looking to share samples of many kinds of coffee-related products and live music to maintain the “coffee shop” atmosphere.
New this year is The Art of Coffee, a coffee-focused art exhibit featuring art from local students and professional artists that plays off the idea of last year’s super successful Latte Art Throwdown. That throwdown will be held again this year (10:30 a.m. Saturday) and feature baristas competing to create the most beautiful designs on the top of the foamed milk that characterizes the beverage. An additional interactive latte-art option will be Latte Art in Action (3 p.m. Saturday), a chance to learn how to make those designs yourself.
The festival has also added a Friday Trade Day before the public festival on Saturday and Sunday to cater to industry professionals who are interested in speaking with vendors.
“We’re going to have workshops and demos specifically for people in the trade: people who own coffee shops or who want to get into the coffee shop business, even people who want to get into the trade,” says Judi Cogen, the festival event director.
The rest of the weekend is for people who appreciate coffee on a variety of levels, and anyone can participate, with or without much research into the coffee world.
“We’ve got everyone coming, from ‘just pour me a cup of coffee’ to ‘let me learn more about this.’ The vendors can educate you to the level that you want to learn,” Cogen says.
One of the biggest reasons to visit the festival is to sample the different kinds of coffee, from a variety of beans and roasts to trendier drinks like cold brew and nitrogen coffee.
“It’s a welcoming, all-encompassing event: we have people come to the festival who don’t like coffee,” Cogen says. “We will have baked goods, tea (and) chocolate.”
The Cincinnati Coffee Festival is more than a destination for coffee lovers; it began last year as a fundraiser for the Ohio River Foundation, a nonprofit that works to educate people living near the Ohio River about how to appreciate and protect the delicate ecosystems that maintain our water supply.
“You can’t have great coffee without great water,” Cogen says. “Many people don’t know just how much good water impacts us. The Ohio River influences our entire watershed.”
Their educational efforts reach thousands of children and adults each year, and the money raised by the coffee festival allows them to reach more people while also organizing and promoting conservation of local species in the river basin.
Tickets to the fest are available at a variety of levels, from regular admission through VIP and VIP Gold. Some of the perks of the VIP passes include early admission and fast track entry, which can both be helpful when the festival gets busy. There are also volunteer opportunities available, accessible on the website. Tickets are expected to go quickly, especially the limited VIP and VIP Gold levels.
The Cincinnati Coffee Festival runs 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets start at $12.50 (advance) and $15 (door) for general admission and go up to $40 for VIP Gold. Get more info and tickets at cincinnaticoffeefestival.com.