Drink, Top Feature

Giving it a shot: our best UK baristas

We caught up with a few of our top latte artists at the Soho House UK barista championships in November

The first Soho House UK barista championship took place at White City House in November. Baristas from sites across the UK came together to compete for first place, the chance to compete at the UK barista championships in 2019, ad an all expenses paid trip to visit Florence and the La Marzocco factory.

Each competitor had ten minutes to present two espressos, two milk-based drinks and two signature drinks. They were judged by a panel including Soho House drinking director Tom Kerr, opening operations director (and founder of our coffee programme) Daniel Thompson, and world and national barista champions.

“Internal competition is a great platform for our talented staff to learn, progress and be challenged to compete on a world level,” said Coco Deeb, coffee QC manager for the UK and Europe. “We’ve done a lot of work on our coffee skills in the past few years and it was so special to see the camaraderie among the competitors, and how many people came along to support them.”

First place was scooped by Ben Newman of Soho Farmhouse, with Nick Amplianitis of White City House and Mona Sarah Fetzer of Shoreditch House placing as runners up. Alex Andreoli of 40 Greek Street won best espresso, Alessio Palma of The Ned won best milk drink and Dimitris Kosmidis of Soho Farmhouse and Mona Sarah Fetzer best signature drink.

But all the competitors impressed with their talent and passion. House Four got to know a few of them beforehand.

Dimitris Kosmidi | Bartender/barista, Soho Farmhouse

I’ve always loved coffee, but my real passion is latte art. I like to make beautiful things to surprise people, make them happy. Back in Greece I met some people who showed me a few things and I also taught myself through YouTube videos. Once I came to the Farmhouse, though, I met more experienced people who taught me it’s not just about the pattern – it’s the texture, the blend, everything. So I’m trying to learn the whole package. Over the last few months I’ve been trying to perfect my swans. The championships are very exciting. I’m keen to learn from the other competitors, and to improve my tasting palate.

Anastasia Ferrari | head barista, Shoreditch House

I got a tattoo of a coffee cup on my wrist after working in the coffee bar at Hoxton Grill. There were three of us there and we became best friends, learning so much about coffee together. I discovered that the coffee bean is as interesting as grapes are for wine. I learned a few things as a barista back in Italy but it’s totally different here. In Italy we don’t do special coffees, it’s just dark roast and that’s it. Here, we check everything from the bean to the weight, the water. If you try to tell Italians that in England the coffee is good, they don’t believe it. But let them think whatever they want – I know the truth!

Ryo Imamura | barista/bartender, Hoxton Grill

I’m from Japan and have worked in coffee shops in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But the UK is where there’s the most choice in coffee; we have influences from all over the world. In a lot of other countries you don’t get that.

Al Kirvelaitis | head barista, Shoreditch House

I got into coffee by accident. I was supposed to be a computer scientist but when I was 17 I got a summer job at an ice-cream shop in my town in Lithuania, and they had a coffee machine.
I started playing about with it and really enjoyed it. When I came to Shoreditch House, there was a very good head barista, Sam, who taught me a lot about coffee. You have to make tasting notes, think about the aroma and where it’s from. Ethiopian is my favourite as it’s full-bodied and not too fruity.

Mariusz Rzezuchowski | head barista, 76 Dean Street

I started here in 2005 as a kitchen porter at 40 Greek Street and worked my way up from barback to bartender and now head barista. I learned more when I started doing morning shifts – you have to know how to make good coffee, fast. I drink filter coffee at home. I was lucky enough to win a coffee subscription this year, so every month I get a different country’s coffee delivered. It’s helping me to learn about different taste and flavours.

Santos Guerrero | head barista, High Road House

The best tip I can pass on is to put passion in your coffee. If you make it without passion, it doesn’t taste good. But if you have passion you are always thinking about what makes it better, what you can change.

Alexandra Kaiser | barista, 40 Greek Street

We have a saying here, love what you do – and I really love coffee. I think my coffee tastes better because I really like making it for customers. It’s a kind of happiness because you can’t live without coffee! So when I see the smile on people’s face when I make it for them, it’s the best part of my job.

Yousri Sghaier | barista, The Ned

I started as a kitchen porter at Barber & Parlour, and after a few months I had the opportunity to move up and do the coffee training. The first thing that amazed me was the latte art: I used to think it was just a stamp! I never realised it was down to the pouring. I thought, wow. I’ve found what I want to do.

Maurizio Siani | bartender/barista, 76 Dean Street

Working here, you’re surrounded by people with a passion for coffee. It makes the job fun. We’ll play around with turmeric, chai or different types of milk. It’s weird for an Italian to say, but I like a nice oat milk ice latte now. My friends would say, “What are you doing?” but I think we should be more open-minded.

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