I was lucky enough to attend the European Coffee Symposium in Warsaw recently with my colleague Caroline. The event is always one of the highlights of our year: meeting industry peers from the UK and across Europe; visiting the host city (next year Milan); a dedicated ‘meet the buyer’ event; an awards dinner; and finally the conference day.
We always get a lot of interest in our single origin hot chocolate and it was interesting to see how our innovation in the UK is ahead of the more traditional scene in Europe. The positive reaction always gives us a buzz and helps grow our export market.
We arrived on the Sunday and walked to the old town, which has lovely architecture that was rebuilt after World War Two, and then tried the local delicacy, pierogi, for dinner. Then it was back to the hotel overlooking the Palace of Culture and Science, an imposing gift from Stalin.
On the Monday we went on the coffee study tour hosted by Jeffrey Young, the MD of Allegra. We visited some traditional outlets; a chain of chocolate cafés, E.Wedel, who have been trading since 1851, which was of course good to see; the modern speciality coffee shops; and also what the branded chains are doing.
I was very impressed with Green Caffe Nero, a collaboration in Poland that is very successful. The company president, Adam Ringer, showed us around one of the cafés, and in the presentation a couple of days later explained how they personalise every site to the local environment or building history.
Later, various awards were voted for by industry peers; here are a few of the winners:
Gail’s Artisan Bakery – Best Coffee Chain – UK & IE
Paul Ettinger – Caffè Nero – Lifetime Achievemnet Award
Piers Blake – Costa Foundation – Outstanding Contribution to the European Coffee Industry
On the final day, the presentations were extremely good. I enjoyed Keith Jackson talking about the global plans of my previous company, Esquires Coffee Houses; Caroline Cromar from Pret A Manger on the successful launch of its veggie outlets; and Eric Derie from Alpro on the rise and benefits of alternative milks.
After the event, I couldn’t visit Warsaw without a visit to the memorial at the ghetto, which was, of course, extremely moving.