- Edition Three Roast for a Season, Drink for a Year
- Author Joshua Elias
- Photographer Nick Found
James Hoffmann and Anette Moldvaer are the two coffee pioneers behind Square Mile Coffee Roasters in East London. We chat with Hoffmann about roasting, drinking and all the other good stuff.
Bright lights, shiny tiles, newlyweds and angry children. In the recycled air of a department store, the smell of coffee is a welcome relief from sterile surrounds.
This was the first caffeine-infused playground for coffee devotee James Hoffmann, who quit his job as an “office monkey” and stumbled into the coffee industry. “I walked out of a terrible job in the music industry … I didn’t like coffee at this point, I did not care about coffee at this point: I just needed a job. I was curious enough to start reading up about it.” When he landed a job with Gaggia—a premier Italian coffee machine manufacturer—Hoffmann soon found himself drifting into the sea of coffee knowledge, soaking up all the information he could find about the beverage. “I got super nerdy about coffee in my spare time and I ended up doing a lot of teaching and training for the company. I seemed to be the only one that was really, really into it and they were quite happy to just let me go and run with it.” By early 2005, as his job with Gaggia was wrapping up, Hoffmann had come to the realisation that the coffee industry was for him.
“The job with Gaggia was kind of perfect for me. I began working inside House of Fraser (a British department store), where Gaggia took up about five hundred square feet of floor space. I had a twogroup commercial machine and all the milk and coffee that I wanted. I was there for fifty or sixty hours a week and I had a lot of spare time between customers. I had a broadband connection in the corner and I got to really, really, really nerdout and learn about coffee from the Internet. I learnt a lot of my basic techniques and understandings from the Internet and I suppose I’ve ended up, over the last decade, remaining fairly entwined with both the Internet and coffee.”
After moving on from Gaggia, Hoffmann began working for a company distributing La Spaziale machines in the UK. According to Hoffmann, this company was run by “very smart people and I learned a bunch. They were going through some explosive growth and I was their training manager.” Speaking with unique intonation, Hoffmann has a sharp and endearing way of communicating. Wit never goes astray in the role of an educator and it is quite easy to see how he has slipped into the role so successfully.
In 2006, Hoffmann won the UK Barista Championship and placed sixth in the World Barista Championship (WBC); the following year, he took out the WBC title. At the time, he was between jobs. “It was pretty stupid. I didn’t have anywhere to practice. I had to beg and borrow time with machines. To practice for the world competition, I had to call in some favours!”
“Telling people stuff they don’t want to know is absolutely pointless. I’m constantly looking to pare back what we say into something more digestible and engaging. When I’m drinking coffee, the moments that I’m actually desperately interested in the altitude at which that coffee was grown are few and I’m supposed to be the guy that cares most about it.” JH