pure torture

March 17, 2008 – 8:23 am

It’s been one of my favorite things in coffee — to feel stupid. I like it.”
— James Hoffmann, on the necessity of reduction as a barista

grave words from a champion, who also had this to say about the recently conquered world competition circuit: “if you think you’re going to win, you’re an idiot.” is is just this blog, or does the man with the crown mix a wee bit of masochism with his kleptomania? let’s call it masomania! no wonder he submitted to the feral torture of our home bar …

more to the point, though, these quotes sort of nailed what, for us, is the essence of that intangible trait of an irresistible champion. not just humility, really, but a willingness — an appreciation for — the necessity of being broken down and rebuilt. he was speaking of bar skills, of course … we’ll leave the broader life applications to you!

little surprise given the personal history of a chap who one year flipped three of his four competition cappuccinos in front of the judges, whose forays into food science brought him a mouthful of coffee mayonnaise, whose job rarely allowed him to build a rapport with any single coffee for more than a day at a time, and whose fabulous girlfriend makes you wonder just where he hides the british can of mondo charm. such were the humanizing bits that surfaced during a three-hour atlanta lecture that featured a preponderance of foodie jargon, like a discourse on ice gelatin filtration: it changes the color of coffee, but tastes the same! useful, that. also, a process involving “cold fingers,” which was always something we thought came from grasping the orange julius a bit too long.

on the industry hang-ups of brewing single estate coffees with an espresso machine: “is it that flawed as a brewer, that it just can’t brew some coffees properly?”

on his somewhat defiant decision to use unusual single estate coffees for his winning barista performance: “it opens espresso back up to me again.”

scintillating single origins were cupped and pulled as shots — a classic wild blueberry ethiopian biloya, a simple and shimmering el salvador finca mauritania and the fruity high-flying kenya gaturiri. of course, espresso was eventually melded with pipe tobacco, toasted hazelnuts, almonds, rosemary, cream, gelatin, foaming agents and sugar before the mesmerized gaze of all. and of course, we videotaped the entire, ponderous, hoffmann-esque narrative.

in two parts … crank the sound. watch the lanky wonder.