James Alexander Hoffmann. Coffee writer, consultant and barista. 1979 -
"It is always important to remember that for the bulk of coffee producers, flavour is not the main reason they have selected a certain variety to grow"
"People enjoy drinking coffee, and baristas enjoy making it…how do we bridge that gap?"
Born in Stafford on the 11th of December 1979, he grew up in England's Lake District, studied at Durham University and went on to work for Gaggia before appearing on Derren Brown's Trick or Treat. In 2007 he won the World Barista Championship and is a founder of Square Mile Coffee in London. He also authoured the book The World Atlas of Coffee, published in 2014.
He is mainly known today for his YouTube channel in which he explores and explains the world of specialty coffee. His dry wit, urbane character and simple explanations have endeared him even to people who are not coffee drinkers. He demonstrates how to make coffee with many different mechanics, introduces new products, and above all talks about enjoying coffee. He wants his viewers to understand coffee at all levels, from how it's grown to how it works as well as how to make it. He talks about coffee's history and its uncertain future in the light of climate change. He clearly loves his work and is continually looking at ways of reaching out to people to spread that love and joy.
He's also been known to review products, from the machinery used to make coffee to products made with it. He's very clear about what he likes, and it does not include coffee-infused cheese. He's a bit of a snob, but equally is self-deprecating. He is, as they say, my cup of tea.
James is almost single-handedly responsible for rekindling my love affair with coffee. I didn't love the instant coffee I made at home, and really good coffee shops were thin on the ground in England at the time. I first truly discovered it in Hungary and Italy a few years ago, and in my travels there learned the many ways in which coffee can be enjoyed. When I returned to Blighty I tried (with the aid of a Bialetti Moka pot donated by my hostess/interpreter) to continue my love affair, but sadly could not replicate the joy I'd gained in Europe.
Close to twenty years passed. One day YouTube's mysterious algorithm suggested one of his videos. Watching and listening to him talking about espresso I got caught up in his enthusiasm, as well as being royally entertained. I watched a couple more just for pleasure. He has a charming and gentle way of presenting information, with a touch of humour that I consider perfect. His appeal to me was immediate, and I subsequently binge watched and drank in all he had to talk about. Not for him the Starbucks style, or a coffee order that takes more than one breath. His approach, pure and simple, is to appreciate coffee for itself.
After all of this of course, I hauled the Moka pot out and began my journey anew. With increased understanding and not a little patience, now each morning I enjoy my wakening even more. my coffee is not just wake-up-juice but a cup of delight. Thanks, James.
James' YouTube channel