The Singapore Coffee Festival 2017 got off to a good start yesterday, with those who attended the industry and media preview giving the thumbs up to its new location at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.
Exhibitors liked the bigger 11,500 sq m space, compared with last year's 7,000 sq m at the F1 Pit Building. Boasting an oceanfront view, the venue also has a cool, breezy outdoor area called Sunset Wharf, which will be the location for an outdoor barbecue, live music acts. Another area called Sunrise Wharf will also be the place to enjoy the fireworks display on Friday (Aug 4) and Saturday (Aug 5).
Oriole Coffee + Bar's master roaster Casey Thomas Blanche, 38, said the previous location at the F1 Pit Building was "too closed and confined".
"Here, there is more space for people to move around," he said.
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The festival, which opens to the public today and ends on Sunday, is organised by The Straits Times and presented by DBS Bank.
About 90 exhibitors, including coffee purveyors, equipment suppliers and cafes, will take part. Activities such as talks, workshops and live music will also take place.
At yesterday's launch, at least 1,175 people had turned up as of 8pm.
Trade members and the media went around sampling the food and drinks on offer. Some cafes have prepared special items just for the Singapore Coffee Festival.
Hyde & Co is selling its cold brew iced teas in bottled form for the first time at $8 each, while Tiong Hoe Specialty Coffee will be launching a special blend of coffee beans.
Ms Juliana, 27, who goes by one name, is in charge of the coffee supplier's wholesale operations and procurement. "We hope to reach out to more cafes and get them to carry our coffee," she said.
Indeed, many industry players interviewed said that the Singapore Coffee Festival is a good opportunity to network.
Hyde & Co's owner Derrick Chew, 31, said that such an event "gives cafe owners a chance to mingle and make friends".
"We are always alone running our own business. But here, you realise that people whom you see as competitors are actually quite friendly," he said.
"I really enjoyed the camaraderie last year. We even shared cutlery when some of us ran out."
He said that the festival also allows him to reach out to more potential business partners and customers.
Last year's event drew 20,000 visitors, a number he said "we will never be able to hit by ourselves".
Seasoned industry players held talks throughout the day, with sustainability being the focus in the afternoon.
Panellists discussed how coffee could become the world's first sustainable agricultural product, as well as how to implement sustainable practices in cafes to encourage eco-friendliness and cost savings.
One of the panellists, Mr Joop Verbeek, 52, owner of New Zealand-based coffee importer and exporter Incafe, said it was time for consumers to "face the music" and look for sustainably sourced produce, including coffee, even if it costs more.
"We have been exploiting the environment in the last 40 years. In the longer term, we will have to pay more to eat better quality products," he said.
This year's festival has been split into two sessions: Brunch, from 10am to 3.30pm; and sundown, from 4.30pm to 10pm.
The organisers explained that this was done to avoid over- crowding and long queues for food and drink, and also to give exhibitors the opportunity to replenish their stocks.
Oriole's Mr Blanche was not in favour of the new format because "if people buy tickets, they should be allowed to stay as long they like".
But Mr Jeff Yeo, 29, a sales manager at coffee-maker supplier Jarmay Enterprises, said having separate sessions ensures a more diverse crowd.
"For the public, there will be better crowd control. And for exhibitors, they get more exposure because a new group of people will come in later in the day," he said.
What's on today
Coffee with the boss
Princess Cruises' director for South-east Asia Farriek Tawfik will share travel tips and ideas for exotic holiday destinations with The Straits Times' travel correspondent Lydia Vasko at the ST Lounge at 11am.
Well-known artists from The Straits Times Art Desk, including Miel, Chee Chew and Cel Gulapa, will make special appearances at the festival to create live graffiti artworks on the wall panels of Zone Americano and Zone Cappuccino from noon to 2pm.
ST's news editor Marc Lim will read from his book, From Kid To King, at 11.30am at The Market. At 12.30pm at the same venue, Mr Andy Chen, deputy editor of ST Life, will read from his children's book, The Swing Of Things, which was illustrated by artist Ye Ruoshi. Ms Ye will be doing caricatures for $10.
National AeroPress Championships
From 6pm to 9pm at the Sunset Wharf, baristas will battle it out to produce the best-tasting coffee using an AeroPress, a special coffee-making device that functions as a plunger. The winner will go on to compete in the World AeroPress Championships in Seoul in November.
Fireworks at 8.45pm
Head to the Sunrise Wharf to catch a five-minute fireworks display against the backdrop of the Singapore skyline.
Correction note: An earlier version of the story referred to a spot to watch fireworks as Sunset Wharf. This is incorrect. It should be Sunrise Wharf.