“After 10+ years of working in the coffee industry, we can confidently say Hannah is here to stay!” – these are the opening words of Hannah’s bio on Cup North’s website and we can only say that we are very happy about it. Hannah Davies is one of the pioneers in building a specialty coffee community in the United Kingdom.
Hannah worked first as a barista before she ventured into the career of a trainer which kept her entertained for a few years. Later on, Hannah caught a bug for organising events when she hosted her first latte art throw-down in Manchester way back in 2011.
Hannah initiated Manchester, Birmingham and now Dublin Coffee Festivals and made them some of the most inclusive, creative and community-oriented events in Europe. Moreover, Hannah created together with her team – Extracted Development – an innovative coffee competition that creatively integrates roasters with baristas. She also co-hosts the Brewing it Over podcast together with Grace Talbot.
Hannah, what is your first memory of coffee?
I worked in a French restaurant when I was 15. They had a traditional espresso machine there and I loved making coffee for our guests. This was long ago when cappuccinos looked like icebergs and lattes were layered. My favourite thing to do was make myself a mocha – and around this time Costa opened in the town where I lived. Me and my sister used to go and order a mocha and think we were so grown up! This was the start of my coffee-drinking journey.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the coffee industry, and how did you get started? What did you do before coffee?
I graduated from university feeling a bit lost and with no direction or plans for my degree in English Literature. I’d always enjoyed hospitality roles and excelled in the routine of them. So I applied for a job in a coffee shop in Liverpool. I landed the job next to Sam Tawil who could do latte art – back in 2006. I’d never seen anything like it and was immediately hooked on the goal of being able to pour rosettas myself.
After four years of working as a barista, I set my sights on becoming a coffee trainer. It kept me busy for the rest of my 20s before I discovered events! I started small by hosting latte art throwdowns and cuppings in Manchester and then it grew from there to become the Manchester Coffee Festival!
Can you tell us a bit about Cup North and its projects?
Cup North is a creative coffee events company with the goal of delivering sustainable and fun events for all! We’re entering into our 10th year of delivering events under the Cup North umbrella and I’m super proud. We have achieved amazing growth with the company in the past couple of years as we’ve added the Birmingham Coffee Festival and Dublin Coffee Festival to our annual festival calendar. As well as a new competition Extracted Development and our podcast Brewing It Over.
Running festivals and big projects requires getting into the shoes of quite a few roles. Which tasks/responsibilities do you enjoy the most and which ones do you love to delegate?
Haha, yeah it can be quite a varied job and for a long time. I did lots of the work myself. I’m really fortunate that we’ve been able to grow the team in the past two years. I get to work with four incredible people who all have their own skills that they bring to their roles.
My favourite tasks are connected to the planning side of events – making spreadsheets, budgets and sorting out data. I also enjoy bringing folks together through our events and love the community aspect of the festivals. I’ve been on a bit of a journey of self-discovery in the past couple of years. Having recently been diagnosed as autistic, I plan to take a step away from the delivery of the events which present a lot of challenges to me in the form of communication and sensory issues.
So I’ll be a bit more behind the scenes for the foreseeable future. I’m so glad that I’ve been able to create a company which allows me the opportunity to put reasonable accommodations in place to support the challenges of me being autistic.
Hannah with Cup North 2023 team: Magdalena Lee, Amina Dahlab, Carly Jones, Grace Talbot. Photo by Lou Wilcock.
The festivals you create are some of the best events in coffee! Could you tell us how and why they are different from “classic” industry fairs?
I’m always glad to hear that our events stand out in a good way. Cup North events have always been about celebrating the value of specialty coffee and making that accessible to consumers. This goal has remained true throughout all of our events. I think that this has helped to keep our events grounded and genuine in comparison to some other events which may be more driven by larger event companies and marketing agencies.
All of the Cup North team come from the coffee industry and care so much about how our events support the community in the UK and beyond!
Hannah during Birmingham Coffee Festival 2023. Photo byLou Wilcock.
You host an amazing podcast about the coffee industry, could you tell us more about it? What is the format and which topics do you tackle?
Brewing It Over is hosted by me and my colleague Grace Talbot. It was developed with the intention of creating a platform to share the content that is delivered and recorded at Cup North events. The episodes typically include an interview with someone who has delivered a presentation at one of our festivals, followed by the recording of that talk. Although, we have mixed the format up a few times to include interviews with people we love and highlights include our Meet the Hosts episodes where you get to know Grace and I! Go listen and look out for series 2 starting in February with a friend of Cup North, Helena Gloeckner.
Do you have any wishes for the future of coffee? Something that you really cheer for or some aspects that definitely should change?
My hope always is that we continue to make our industry more accessible to ALL people and that we strive to feature voices from all parts of our community in particular coffee producers.
I hope that the trend for regenerative farming continues and takes hold within the coffee industry and that this can have some positive impact on the negative effects of climate change.
In a nutshell, my wish is that we all take care of each other and the environment as best as we can.
What coffee challenges are you looking forward to? Any new collaborations or exciting (extracted :D) developments in 2024?
In 2023, Cup North had big aspirations for growing our annual festival calendar from one to three with Birmingham and Dublin, launching a new coffee competition with Extracted Development and launching a new podcast. This year we’re keeping it real and focussing on how we can do all of these things better – three festivals a year is enough for now!
Our next event coming up is the Dublin Coffee Festival which will also play host to Extracted Development. I’m so excited for the Irish coffee community to come together and deliver another incredible Cup North event with us!
Quick Fire Questions for Hannah Davies:
Would you serve filter coffee with milk if asked for it?