a guided coffee tasting at penny university
london london london, i’ve been in you for a few days now and have i checked any cultural boxes? not so much. there has been strolling and there have been really a lot of peas, and maybe just maybe there was a little side trip to oslo, but that’s a story for another day.
my coffee explorations here have been geographically limited but so high-calibre it’s been hard to want to tube schlep further out: penny university‘s simple, unpedantic approach to educating, showcasing, and encouraging filter coffee in london is endearing and a hopeful nod to the future of geekery and discovery. i want to take my mom here. i want to have a place like this to stroll by in any worthwhile city and just nose around and learn, as a customer, not just as a lucky friend of the cafe who happens to show up in time for a staff cupping or a special bag of something dropped off from copenhagen or olympia or san antonio. winding my way up from penny i’ve gotten waylaid for probably four cumulative hours now in the awkward aislespace of present and prufrock coffee. i don’t need any fancy men’s shirts or art journals, but i do need mattias and gwilym preparing some of the best espressos i’ve had in a long long time. up the road on hackney i also can’t stop going to taste of bitter love, the ultimate adorable local (superb coffee, quaintest space ever, darling staff, lovely bakery and sandwiches) that everyone wishes were across the street from them, oh except for james and anette of square mile, for whom it actually is across the street. bastards.
so, tomorrow begins the 2010 world barista championship, and though i have no idea what will happen, this not so unbiased journalist is rooting for america again, not only because mike phillips is my favourite in the competition (gotta use those ‘u’s over here in the UK or they won’t know what we’re talking about), and because his coffees are exquisite, but because his routines this year have been over and above, well, almost everything i’ve ever seen in a barista competition. mike is fortunate to be with a company that pushes the opportunites and ideas in coffee so far and hard in the US, but beyond that, his performative explorations of what coffee is about, what we can learn from it, and how it can be showcased interestingly in a competition environment is at a higher level than most things i’ve had the pleasure to watch, and it should be a pleasure to watch again on wednesday around 15:35 GMT*.
other competitors on my look-out-for list: yara castanho (brazil), 14:27 GMT wednesday; colin harmon (ireland), 11:18 GMT thursday; john gordon (uk), 11:20 GMT wednesday; oda haug (norway), 14:25 thursday; attila molnar (hungary), 15:16 GMT thursday; and raul “el tigre” rodas (guatemala), 13:34 GMT thursday — ALL repeat national champions. i am also very curious to see many of the baristas i’ve never seen before, not the least of whom are jimmy njoroge of kenya, who i met and was very funny, kyle straw of canada, scottie callaghan of australia who freaked me out on a bus in los angeles, and vikram kashyap, competing for a caribou coffee franchise in the united arab emirates. what!? i love WBC! see you in the morning!!
* all times based on the schedule i have which may totally not be current, sorry.