Since Londoner Gwilym Davies was crowned 2009 World Barista Champion my inbox has been clogged with the same two questions: Where can I find him pulling shots and why wasn’t he included in my roundup of the top 10 coffee shops in London?
Gwilym does not work at a coffee shop. He developed his championship form at a freestanding cart parked at the Whitecross Street food market (in front of yellow building at 149 Whitecross St – map) on weekdays from 8am to 2pm and behind the Columbia Road flower market (inside small flea market at 7B Ezra Street – see map) at the same time on Sundays. When he’s home in London, that’s where you are most likely to find him, except when he’s at Present, a fashionable menswear shop in Shoreditch (140 Shoreditch High Steet – see map). He’s parked a sleek white trolley to the left as you enter.
Though Gwilym is cannot always be presents to call the shots you are sure to find a very capable and sometimes accomplished barista pulling them. On Sundays you will often see Gwilym’s roaster, Square Mile Coffee‘s James Hoffmann, who also happens to be the 2007 World Barista Champion, pulling shots and texturing milk.
When the new champion returned to London from the World Barista Championship I first caught up with him at Caffè Culture, a coffee trade show at London’s Olympia exhibition centre. I found him preparing coffees and holding court at the stand for Nuova Simonelli espresso machines. He seemed to be enjoying his newfound rock-star status.
In front of his fawning audience I reminded him that a few days before departing for the WBC in Atlanta he had confided that he hadn’t had much time to train and seemed to suggest that his goal was not to embarrass himself. The champ blushed.
So how, I asked, did he end up winning?
Like the Beatles in Hamburg, Gwilym perfected his act through raw performances under difficult conditions, preparing street coffees by the thousands in London. His game plan was to concentrate on making the best possible espresso and cappuccino, forgo points on presentation and not worry much about technical grading.
“I wasn’t polished,” he says, an understatement given that he had to repull a set of espressos in the WBC finals. “I ignored the technical judges. I just did what I do every day.”