So, Hannah, myself and an amazing team of women have been involved in putting on the first ever Totnes Coffee Festival. The last two weeks have seen 26 cafe’s in and around Totnes participating – each one doing a promotion and asking customers to score them for their coffee and customer service.
The two weeks culminated last Sunday with a Coffee Festival extravaganza and Barista competition. I don’t think we could have asked for a better day!! The sun shone, everything went to plan and the whole day was just joyous! The atmosphere created by the live music was spectacular, the good food market was, as ever, a fantastic array of deliciousness and everything we hoped for of the day, and more unfolded.
On one side of the road we had the three judges tasting and sampling the coffee entries, the wonderful, innovative and fantastic looking Beanbug coffee trike on which the Barista’s were nervously demonstrating their skills, the fairtrade stall with all their goods and information and Owen’s Coffee exhibiting their products and explaining to the public about the delicacy of a well roasted coffee bean. Across the road from them was the petition signing table, the musicians on the raised wall area under the tree, Fungi Futures explaining the amazing process of turning coffee grounds into delicious gourmet mushrooms and Coffee West supplying the coffee-enthusiastic crowds who then sat and enjoyed the sunshine and music at the chairs and tables loaned to us generously by Tangerine Tree cafe and Willow Vegetarian Restaurant! That’s not to mention the numerous small food producers who were selling Thai, Indian, Israeli, French, vegetarian, Spanish (to name a few) dishes to the milling visitors. Around lunchtime, the sun broke through the clouds, the music enveloped the town centre and the atmosphere was amazing!
The end of the day was celebrated with the exciting winning announcements – Fat Lemons won best coffee in Totnes as voted by the public, Rumours was voted best atmosphere and customer service by the public, Gary Jagger from La Fourchette won best barista and Josh Erlick from The Barrel House won best coffee art. The day before (Saturday) Hannah, myself and the rest of the planning committee spent a few of hours data entering the score card results and were amazed at the positivity of the scores and how incredibly close the end results were. Evidently, the cafe’s of Totnes are much loved and respected by the public.
Throughout the day there was much discussion and debate about Costa coming to town. The majority of people were in support, very keen to tell us why Costa shouldn’t come, with a few unsure and fewer still thinking its presence would be a good thing. It was fantastic to be able to engage with people and to hear their points of view as well as to give our own. I love discussing the subject of localism which I feel is so current and important and to give a wider context of local economic strength and resilience in the face of chains dominating the market.
So, now the battle commences. In researching our position, it has become frighteningly apparent that Costa Coffee play dirty and put a lot of time, money and personnel into ensuring they get what they want. Well, we have fantastically creative and passionate people in this town, for whom a strong local economy is important. We value the individual, the unique and independent character of Totnes and appreciate the value of small businesses who contribute more money, active support and community spirit to the town than a chain ever will. The small family run cafes buy much of their ingredients locally, thereby supporting other small businesses and are therefore truly Devonian. Isn’t that what tourists come for? Something a little unique – a non clonetown? We hope we can see these tyrants off and keep the businesses we have afloat in these hard times. Watch this space as the NotoCosta InTotnes campaign takes off!