Asheville Coffee Expo to showcase local roasting, brewing and sipping culture

BREWING UP A FESTIVAL: Angie Rainey and Stu Helm will share their love of the local coffee scene with the entire community by collaborating to produce the upcoming Asheville Coffee Expo. The event will be hosted by PennyCup Coffee in the River Arts District, with Ralph Street closed to traffic for the day to accommodate vendors and activities. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Asheville foodies who keep up with local restaurant reviewer Stu Helm know he is just as serious about his coffee as he is about his food. Whether chatting about local shops and brews on his AVL Food Fans podcasts or highlighting them in his social media interactions and reviews on Ashvegas, Helm makes it clear that he adores a good cup of joe and wholeheartedly supports the local coffee culture.

Now Helm, with the help of Coffee Crate owner Angie Rainey and PennyCup Coffee Co. co-owners Amber Arthur and Bill Tanner, will take that support to a new level on Saturday, Oct. 1 — which is, appropriately, International Coffee Day — by hosting the inaugural Asheville Coffee Expo. The city of Asheville will shut down Ralph Street in the River Arts District for the day, allowing the festival to center on PennyCup’s flagship café and roasting operation.

The free event will offer something for all ages and tastes. Many local coffee shops will be on hand, of course, selling their brews, but Asheville bakeries, sweets businesses and artists will also have booths. And children as well as adults can compete for prizes in uphill coffee sack races in Murray Hill Park.

Meanwhile, baristas can sign up to take part in a latte art contest (judged by River Arts District artists), a freestyle espresso competition and a cappuccino throw-down. There will also be demonstrations and workshops that should appeal to both devoted coffee fanatics and industry professionals. For instance, Jonathon Flaum of Farm to Home Milk, who has donated 20 gallons of milk for the event, will offer a class for both baristas and the public on the importance of using high-quality milk in lattes.

“Our goals for the Asheville Coffee Expo are to bring the local coffee industry people and coffee drinkers together for one day of supercaffeinated fun. But we respect decaf drinkers and will also have other beverages available,” says Helm. “We believe strongly that really good coffee — truly great coffee — isn’t for an elite clique of effete geeks, but that it is the people’s drink, and we want to celebrate it with everyone.”

Helm says he was inspired to create the expo, which he sees as “part convention, part festival,” after he noted a lack of coffee at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival’s annual dessert-focused event, Sweet. “That prompted me to think that a coffee-based event might be a good idea,” he says. From there, he approached Rainey, whose small-batch local coffee subscription service, Coffee Crate, had once been an underwriter for AVL Food Fans.

“I didn’t hesitate at the idea,” says Rainey. “What a great opportunity to bring the community together around something we love. There are so many talented coffee people in the area. We wanted to highlight that talent and, more simply, have fun.”

The expo also has a charity component — a suggested $1 per person entry fee for the sack races will be donated to Buncombe County Special Olympics. However, the organizers stress that people are also welcome to enter the races for free.

Helm notes that although his event-production experience has so far been limited to one weeklong stoner-rock festival he put on in Chicago many years ago, the city of Asheville has made the process of coordinating the logistics of the Asheville Coffee Expo relatively pain-free. “They have been great about helping us to block off Ralph Street behind PennyCup for the day of the event and walking us through the steps of filling out applications and insurance forms, anticipating safety issues, locating blockades, dealing with electricity etc.,” he says. “Asheville seems to be a city that wants festivals to happen, and we appreciate that.”



Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.