From water to coffee

Only in its second year, the Cincinnati Coffee Festival is already the largest coffee festival in the Midwest. The 2017 inaugural event saw 4,000 attendees, which was almost double the expected turnout. Event director Judi Cogen admits they “had no idea how much the community would embrace it.”


The second annual Coffee Festival takes place at Music Hall on November 10­–11, and it guarantees something for everyone, from casual home brewers to coffee enthusiasts. Workshops like Tea 101, What is Flavor?, and Turkish Coffee are interspersed with live music and designed to help people learn about things like making better brews and coffee flavors from around the world, or simply for those who want to mingle with a drink.


This year there will be a Trade Day before the festival on November 9, which is designed for both current and aspiring industry professionals.


But what exactly is the connection between the Ohio River Foundation and coffee?


Ever since 2000, the Ohio River Foundation (ORF) — the organization behind the festival — has been finding creative ways to highlight the ecosystem of the Ohio River watershed. Whether it means getting students out into the rivers, creeks and streams of the region, or bringing mussels into the classroom for hands-on animal research, the bottom line is the same: to heighten awareness and inspire “the next generation of water stewards.”


“Water is everything,” says Chuck Pfahler, brand founder and chief educator at La Terza. “[Coffee] hinges on access to clean water.”


A company like La Terza, which sources directly from coffee farmers, must know everything about how producers operate, including metrics for water quality during the harvesting and washing process. Then during the brewing process, water chemistry and filtration come into play, impacting taste and machine maintenance. A cup of coffee is, after all, nearly 99 percent water.


Given that La Terza is not only a specialty coffee roasterie, but also a provider of coffee shop supplies, equipment, maintenance support, education, and training for more than 50 clients, they have a multi-dimensional understanding of what goes into a good cup of coffee. Much like the ORF, they have an eye for the broader ecosystem in which they operate, and are passionate about nurturing it.


La Terza will be one of approximately 60 vendors at the Coffee Festival, offering samples, demonstrations, and goods for purchase. In addition to artisan coffee, you can expect to find baked goods, pastries, chocolates, and a healthy dose of competition.


In the now-annual Latte Art Throwdown, area baristas will again face off for the distinction of supreme latte artist of Greater Cincinnati and attendees will weigh in on their favorites. New this year will be a Latte Art in Action, a hands-on “how to” for those who want to try their hand at latte art, with guidance from the pros.


Cogen attests to a spirit of collaboration and camaraderie in Cincinnati’s artisanal scene, which does not exist in every city. In a community where it seems like “everybody raises everybody,” an event like the coffee festival captures this all in one room. Come check it out, urges Cogen, and consider getting your tickets in advance.

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Read more articles by Sarah Dupee.

Sarah Dupee is a freelance writer, teacher, translator, and musician with a background in French and Francophone Studies.