The second-annual Austin Coffee Festival brought together roasters and other coffee-adjacent businesses to show off their products, innovative new ideas, and, of course, coffee to consumers and caffeine connoisseurs alike. The event took place at Fair Market in downtown Austin from September 30 to October 1 and was organized by Craft Hospitality LLC (they’re also the team behind the San Francisco Coffee Festival and DC Coffee Festival).
Over 2,500 people frequented the festival, with booths from over twenty roasters, from Austin coffee staples like Greater Goods Roasting and Merit Coffee to newcomers like Haciendo Coffee. Attendees ranged from established business owners looking to forecast and learn about new trends to casual enthusiasts engaging with their favorite roasters and getting their buzz on.
One of those attendees was Jacob M., who lives in Austin and attended the festival last year—he was tagging along with a friend who quit his data analyst job to become a barista.
Jacob says he’s learning more about coffee through his friend’s new job and was excited to learn more at this year’s festival. “There’s a lot of people, a lot of knowledge, and a lot of really unique things [roasters] are doing,” he said. “It’s just really interesting to see what [coffee shops] are doing beyond the core processes.”
He shouted out Red Horn Coffee and Brewing, who were slinging samples of a drink they called the Latte Shooter, a mix of honey simple syrup and cold oat milk topped with steamed cold brew. The drink—appropriately served in small shooter glasses—was a riff on a Red Horn drink called the Bee Bee Gee, which is on the menu at the brand’s two retail locations. “I wanted to bring [the drink] but in a non latte form,” says Marco Leal, Red Horn’s director of coffee.
Roasters presented a range of offerings from their coffee menus, using the event to showcase new and exciting coffee concoctions—at the Greater Goods booth, patrons could grab a decaf cold brew with a cascara syrup and oat milk; Wild Gift Coffee, a small Austin-based roastery, purchased a coffee from Columbia specifically to roast for this event.
“This is a unique opportunity for us to be able to reach as many people as possible,” said Clancy Rose, co-founder of Wild Gift. Wild Gift has no retail storefronts, so the Austin Coffee Festival allows Rose to connect with customers and build brand awareness. “Both years have been really good. Last year was a test run—we didn’t know what to expect, and we were a little under-prepared, but we came back ready to rock this year. It’s been a great event.”
For roasters like Wild Gift—and other roasteries without a retail storefront like Creature Coffee, Sightseer, and Haciendo Coffee—the Austin Coffee Festival is a vital nexus point to reach new customers. “We’ve had a ton of consumers, a ton of people that are new to us, and we’re new to them,” said Billy Wiginton of Haciendo Coffee. And it’s not just customers they’re building connections with. “Some of the other roasters have wanted to come and see what we’re about, especially since we’re not in Austin. It’s been nice to meet other roasters and build some new relationships.”
Meeting new people was a common theme among many roasters. Medici Roasting owner Michael Vaclav said that even though they’ve been in Austin for 17 years, they still get people coming up to the table who are unfamiliar with Medici. “It’s a fun way to get your coffee in front of new people,” he said. Leal agrees: “You can’t beat the face-to-face interaction you can get at events like this.”
The Austin Coffee Festival wasn’t just for roasters: attendees could visit booths from Kimbala Chai, a local chai company, Oatly, Minor Figures, Texas-based dairy farm Mill-King, and Loveramics, a ceramics company that has made cups and wares for cafes across the globe.
Both Oatly and Minor Figures debuted two new products at the festival: Oatly brought its new oat-based creamer, and Minor Figures debuted its new chai base for cafes. “We are here at the Austin Coffee Festival because we imagine people flocking here love coffee just as much as we do,” says Francesca Salac, director of marketing for Minor Figures. “We’re excited to introduce them to the product and give them a chance to try it.”
Based on the lines at the Minor Figures booth—and every booth—it was clear that Austin residents were ready to try new things and celebrate their love of coffee. The Austin Coffee Festival was full of delight: at every corner you turned, people were enjoying fun coffee concoctions, meeting new friends, and perhaps finding a new favorite roaster or a brand they didn’t know existed before.