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The right thing at the right time. How the Virtual Coffee Festival became a hit.

Created in response to cancellations and lockdowns and driven by the necessity to innovate, this fresh new concept is fit for the future

Innovation in a time of need


A few weeks ago, the specialty coffee industry was on a high. Tons of new café openings were planned for the start of 2020, festivals and competitions scheduled to go ahead and many roasters were getting excited to receive brand new deliveries of fresh greens.

No one in the world could have anticipated that within a few days, things would come to a complete standstill and our industry would be facing the biggest threat to its existence in living memory.

We literally went from boom to bust faster than you Supercallifragilisticexpialidocious. Sadly, this is not the remake of a Disney Classic, alhough we have certainly seen pandemics before but nothing quite like this.

With the coffee industry left reeling and coffee lovers in many countries required to stay at home, suddenly, a gap opened in the annual coffee festival calender that my partner and I decided to fill with a spontaneous Virtual Coffee Festival concept.

Design by Brandon Yasin

Design by Brandon Yasin

Born out of the desire to offer our colleages, partners and friends something positive to look forward to in these dire times and driven by the necessity to innovate an aspect of the industry that has become somewhat repetitive and uninspiring, the Virtual Coffee Festival was slated to take place on March 29th and to be broadcast to all four corners of the world completely free of charge.

The idea was simple. Bring together five inspiring coffee professionals who can provide informative talks or interactive workshops on a range of relevant topics and get the audience to participate from start to finish.

By breaking down barriers at a time of self-isolation and creating a new platform for the coffee community to meet online, our goal was to offer a unique new way to share knowledge and create a sense of community.

Looking back, it was an impressive achievement, not least because the event also managed to raise €2.000 for Doctors Without Borders thanks to the incredibly generous donations of its participants, Aerobie and Donorbox.

While slightly hampered by technical difficulties in the beginning, the five speakers delivered engaging presentations and fun workshops that were watched by over 2.000 people from all over the world so far (April 6th, 2020).

The program included:

  • Ronny Billemon – “Finding the perfect water for coffee brewing”
  • Joe McTaggart – “Precision grinding for every brew method”
  • Talor Browne – “On choosing unique coffees and giving them character”
  • Matt Winton – “Basics for brewing incredible coffees”
  • Wendelien van Bunnik – “Making the best coffee-ever with your Aeropress”

For the final two workshops, all particpants were invited to take part and work with the same tools as the presenter to create a simultaneous learning experience unlike anything that has ever been seen in the coffee industry before.

All recordings of the event are now available to watch on the Virtual Coffee Festival YouTube channel.

How the message spread


Despite the short notice, our wonderful PR agency Hooton was able to get us coverage on a variety of websites, including:

Barista Magazine Online: “World’s First Virtual Coffee Festival Lands This Sunday”

TimeOut London: “A virtual coffee festival is happening this weekend”

European Coffee Trip: “Virtual Coffee Festival (live stream)”

CafeMag: “Virtual Coffee Festival, l’événement en ligne 100% café de spécialité”

Thanks to a huge amount of shares and reposts, Virtual Coffee Festival was able to gain over 1.000 Instagram followers and 3.00 Facebook fans in the course of just 1 week and it built up a significant email database thanks to an overwhelming number of signups.

A fresh concept for the future


The highly successful first edition of Virtual Coffee Festival is proof that the coffee industry is ready for a new approach to gatherings and education.

Free from the complexities of hosting large-scale phyical events, Virtual Coffee Festival is extremely flexible, cost-efficient, good for the environment and infinitely scaleable.

Its TED-talk-like format allows for a variety of topics to be presented in one session, offers the organisation a unique opportunity to get to know its global audience and bring it together in one communal session in a world’s first format.

Virtual Coffee Festival is the perfect addition to a busy festival calender and its design will allow the event to take place several times a year, not unlike a well-written specialty coffee magazine. In fact, that’s how we’d love you to think of it.

See you at the next edition in June 2020.

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