One attribute that separates exacting chefs from merely attentive ones is an intolerance for the slightest imperfection. It is also a trait shared by kitchen tyrants who berate underlings for sprinkling 16 grains of coarse sea salt on the left half of a dish and only 15 on the right half.
The London-based baristas Jeremy Challender and Gwilym Davies, co-directors of Prufrock Coffee, possess the same perfectionism, if not the sadism sometimes associated with it. When asked what makes Davies, the 2009 World Barista Champion, special I refer to his habit of pulling beautiful espressos and then enumerating their minute faults. I’ve never found cause to send back a coffee prepared for me by Davies but he has. Twice he’s taken back my espresso before I’ve had a chance to sip it. You might conclude this was due to my having overestimated Davies’ skills as a coffee preparer or, more likely, his having overestimated mine as a coffee taster. But I think was more about fussiness and an uncompromising formula for greatness: 50 imperceptible adjustments = 1 big difference. [Read more…]