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TALKIN’ JAVA: Wilmington Coffee Fest amps up for a larger soirée

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When I met with Krysta Kearney and Will Chacon of Wilmington Coffee Fest, Kearney mentioned she hoped someday people would think of Wilmington as a coffee town but it wasn’t there yet. I respectfully disagree. Evidence of our coffee-town status can be seen by the delightfully diverse coffee shops (there are 20-plus in Wilmington alone) and in our local roasting game: It’s getting stronger and stronger with 12 roasters already providing the Port City with fresh beans. Now we can look forward to number 13: Luna Caffe on 6th and Castle.

Chacon and wife Nina Hayhurst-Chacon opened Luna in 2013, but at the time coffee wasn’t their passion. The couple originally leased the Castle Street space so Chacon could teach drums in the back (which he still does), and thought a coffee shop up front would give students’ parents a nice space to wait. Flash forward six years, and Luna Caffè ain’t no waiting room. The coffee shop currently features beans from Rev Coffee Roasters out of Smyrna, Georgia … but not for long. Soon, Luna will serve hot (and cold!) cups of their own roasts, as the cafe is opening up Luna Coffee Roastery up the street at 9th and Castle.

“It all started last year when we visited [Rev Coffee] and I just saw how different the roasting side is,” Chacon explains. “Thereafter, [my wife and I] got the bug to roast, and we finally found the roaster. Roasters are hard to find nowadays, and when you do find them, they’re really expensive. But I happened to find a used one that’s big—a 10-kilo—that was really affordable.”

Aside from serving and retailing their beans in their own cafe, they’ll gauge customer response and confidence in their product to sell their beans to coffee shops in town and beyond. One of the places Chacon wants to showcase his product is 2020’s Wilmington Coffee Fest—an annual celebration of all-things caffeinated, curated by him and Krysta Kearney.

Wilmingtonians may know the Wilmington Coffee Fest by a different name: Wilmington Coffee Crawl, which is how Kearney started it in 2017. It was initially designed so coffee connoisseurs could walk around downtown Wilmington, and indulge in various creations at shops that were geographically close. Wilmington’s prolific coffee scene has caused a shift both in branding and design. Kearney and Chacon wanted the event to be more inclusive, involving shops outside of downtown. The idea of a crawl over multiple days in different parts of town was batted around, but, ultimately, it seemed convoluted.

Instead, a festival started to take shape. The event is split between two locations, or two parts as the case may be. All things coffee (roasters and coffee shops) will set up at the USO Hannah Block/Community Arts Center on 2nd Street until 4 p.m. The makers market, along with food trucks, coffee trucks and music, will be at Waterline and includes a lineup of delicious housemade beer, including the coffee and cream ale Waterline head brewer Dani Bearss makes with Rev Coffee beans.

In the past, Kearny has tried to have coffee-focused demonstrations, but 2,500 caffeine-crazed attendees made for space complications. The USO will allow for more educational opportunities next year when the coffee fest is held February 1, 2020. Representatives from different companies will be doing various demos, teaching attendees the intricacies of Chemex/pour-over coffee making, cupping and the art of small-batch roasting. The classrooms will be used for lectures on topics like how to start a coffee shop, different jobs in the coffee industry, coffee trade, and the similarities between coffee and beer industries. Chacon and Kearny are still hashing out educational opportunities, so neither the demonstration nor the lecture list are complete.

One of the aspects the organizers are most excited about is their effort to go greener. Attendees will receive a tote bag and reusable espresso cup. Kearney and Chacon also are working to pair with food trucks that utilize eco-friendly products and minimize waste. They hope in the future they can make the event zero-waste.

Event check-in begins at 10 a.m. at the USO on December 21. Pre-sale tickets are available now for $18 general admission or $32 VIP, which include early entry, a special line, extra swag, and entry into the industry party on Friday night at Waterline, including two drink tickets. Children 10 and under can attend for free.

So far festival participants include: 24 South Coffeehouse, Brown Dog Coffee Company, Grinders Cafe, Luna Caffè, Port City Java, Social Coffee + Supply Co., Tama Cafe, The Complex Bean, 1000 Face Coffee, Counter Culture, Java Estate Roastery, Longboard Coffee Roaster, The Milk Road, Vigilant Hope, De La Finca Coffee Importers, Kerry, Big Train, Da Vinci Gourmet, Oregon Chai, Monin, and Torani.

Don’t miss Wilmington Coffee Fest at 12 Tastes (or more!) of Christmas.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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