Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mr Bean; It's Official-The East End Is Home to the World's Best Barista. Craig Butcher Went to Meet London's New Coffee King

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mr Bean; It's Official-The East End Is Home to the World's Best Barista. Craig Butcher Went to Meet London's New Coffee King

Article excerpt

Byline: Craig Butcher

GWILYM Davies is an unassuming East Ender whose trademark flat cap and tweed waistcoat became the talk of the recent World Barista Championships in Atlanta, the most competitive gathering of coffee experts in the world. Beating 2,500 other entrants, Gwilym was the surprise winner -- and no one was more shocked at the victory than him. "The aim was not to win," he says, "I only entered because I thought it would be a good training exercise."

Gwilym, at 42 also the oldest competitor, knows all about exercise. In a former life he was a gym manager but then a trip to New Zealand 10 years ago changed all that. "I started working in a cafe in Auckland where they roasted their own coffee. I was captivated. I realised it was an agricultural product and wasn't just a thing that came out of a packet. I saw the potential of coffee and what could be done with it."

On his return to London he spent five years learning the ropes at Covent Garden's Monmouth Coffee before branching out on his own, with a coffee cart on Whitecross Street market near the Barbican on weekdays and at Columbia Road flower market on Sundays.

"There is a perception that speciality coffee is slightly snobby and that's because the language puts up barriers.

I want to break down that barrier between the coffee and the customer. It's one of the reasons we put the carts on the street -- to say that great coffee is possible and everyone can have it."

Bringing it all down to basics -- a single espresso from his cart is a staggeringly cheap 60p -- is an ethos that served him well at the championships. "We knew we had a lovely coffee, all we had to do was represent it well," says Gwilym. The coffee he used was Colombian, sourced by 2007 World Barista Champion James Hoffmann, owner of Square Mile Roasters in Bethnal Green. "Using them for all my supplies is a no-brainer," says Gwilym. "They are based in Cambridge Heath, so I can hop on my bike, pick up some coffee and be back again in a flash."

This relationship with local roasters is indicative of the closeness of the East End's evolving coffee community. They are passionate about the drink but they don't earn much, hence their choice of this part of London because the rents are low. …

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