If the title of this post looks a little odd to you then you’re probably not a follower of Twitter. I am. I’m finding the urge to check my timeline increasingly compelling, it’s both a source of entertainment on my many long walks (yeah, I’ve hit a few lamp posts!), but also I’m finding that my social life has started to become dictated by mere mentions, comments, rumours and suggestions that initially pique my interest here. And this is how I found myself, at a loose end on Good Friday, with an excuse to visit my favourite coffee shop, Prufrock. Oh how I long for it to be my local, but all the way over in East London, it’s a bit of a mission for me and becomes a day out destination in itself (not that that’s a bad way to spend a day). The irony is that when I first started drinking coffee around ten years ago I worked in Greville Street, a mere spitting distance away, where I found myself buying gigantic watery buckets of poor quality ‘coffee’ from Benjy’s, having nothing back then to compare it to.
With the promise of a bit of entertainment in the form of a latte art throwdown and some great coffee, I arrived at Leather Lane early enough to allow myself time to settle in and enjoy a good brew (Square Mile agoga using a cloth filter if you’re asking) and a slab of exotic sounding tomato, coconut and raisin cake, actually not as strange as it sounds; the tomatoes adding a sweet and rich element with an acidity akin to the raisins. I’m reminded what a pleasure it is to linger in this vast space; uncluttered, the vibe is distinctly laid back. The room itself is decorated calmly with plenty of wooden features, clean white walls and sky blue planes that are echoed in some gorgeous crockery, with additional accents of bright red. I also had the opportunity to pop downstairs and have a nose at the training room, now slowly getting smartened up and decked out with all the necessary equipment; the’ve already managed to host a couple of group sessions. The room is again spacious and smells deliciously of the long, heavy, lacquered wooden benches, one of which I’m told comes from the old Penny University. I’m starkly reminded how much I want to learn how to make good coffee myself at home, must book that lesson soon….
Anyway, onto the competition, and as Prufrock closes it’s doors for the day (although not literally, it was far too pleasant a late afternoon to shut it out just yet, so passers by would pop in from time to time keen too get a caffeine fix - and get roped into a spot of impromptu judging!) baristas started arriving, some cycling in on their trendy fixies, for the #goodfridaythrowdown. I believe it all started with a little light hearted banter between 2009 World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies, and indeed owner of the shop, and Prufrock barista David Robson. As is the way often with Twitter, things escalated and as more baristas jumped into the conversation and got involved, partly in an effort to make David nervous in front of a crowd, the hashtag was created. In the end there were eight competitors, including baristas from Tapped and Packed, St Ali, United Coffee and Calum aka @youngbarista, with the rest of us acting as audience/judges. There was studious practising, pleas of over-caffeination and nervous shakes, but each contestant had just one chance to pour. In the end judges were unable to come to a decisive conclustion, so the competition inevitably took to Twitter with all pairs of coffees being tweeted to any followers, before all votes were counted.
I won’t go into detail as it was essentially a lighthearted contest and a chance for local baristas to chill out and have a bit of fun but suffice to say that David aka @RobsonBarista did Prufrock proud and ‘whipped everones latte art arses’. What I found inspiring and reassuring to see was that these baristas, from some of the leading coffee shops in London, clearly enjoy a spot of healthy competition, but essentially all have the same common goal which is to promote good quality, artisan coffee, and there was a great sense of real comradery among them. As I left them to it I couldn’t help hearing all sorts of exciting talk of coffee pop ups, I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more on that!
By the end of the session the lattes were starting to pile up and appeared to decorate every available surface, you’d be in heaven….if you like that sort of thing of course!Tweet