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David Ly


David Ly

Paris – France

Scroll through David’s Instagram gallery, and it’s easy to see why he waltzed off with the World Latte Art Championship France in 2019; the well-deserved result of years of perfecting his craft and sheer hard work. At the top of his game, right now he’s offering up all that knowledge and expertise as an independent coffee consultant.

Speciality coffee wasn’t originally part of the plan. It was quite a swerve – from banking to barista, no less. He was studying for a master’s degree in business studies when he decided to add fluent English to his sack of skills and took a year out to travel an English-speaking country. As luck would have it, his housemate in his chosen country, Australia, was a Korean barista passionate about coffee – and that passion proved infectious. Hooked, David spent six months behind a counter learning the trade, then six months on the road soaking up ideas and inspiration. What he loves most is the multi-tasking and the variety. The life of a barista is never dull – and he doesn’t have to sit at a desk all day wearing a tie!

His original dream was to open his own coffee shop. But then Covid walked in through the door. So, in the meantime he’s using his expertise to help other people open their own businesses and make a success of them.

Life isn’t all about work. In his spare time, he heads to the gym. “It keeps my mind clear.” And work isn’t all about work, either. There’s always time for fun. “Have you ever eaten a chocolate sponge cake made by a barista? It’s a standard barista joke – an old coffee puck on a plate covered with chocolate syrup. I think you can guess what comes next!”

His perfect serve? Filter, with precisely the right grind size, temperature, measure of coffee and amount of water. “That’s what we call the recipe.”

Inside the industry, he thinks the biggest recent change has been the development of ever more, and more complex, coffee flavours, powered by international R&D in fermentation. Which is driven in turn by the intensely competitive coffee scene worldwide.

Plus, climate chaos brought on by global warming is and will be the future issue. “We saw it recently in Brazil, where a lot of farms lost their coffee trees because of freezing temperatures.” It’s telling that work’s already afoot to develop new varieties that will weather the changes in our weather, and still deliver a good cup of coffee.

So, he absolutely gets the case for sustainability. “When it’s a takeaway, I always ask nicely if the customer actually has the time to drink their coffee out of a china cup. It tastes better, there’s less waste, and we can have a little chat! And if not then, maybe next time they can bring their own reusable one.”

And he’s totally into plant-based alternatives “because now they not only deliver amazing mouthfeel and texture, but with so many different bases they open up a whole new universe of flavour for baristas.” Demand’s growing fast, and he reckons that a third of all the drinks he now serves are non-dairy. At home, too. “My wife is a vegetarian, so I naturally tend to eat more plant-based foods.”

David’s travelled a long way, in every way, from out and out beginner to champion barista. As well as mastering the basic skills and techniques, he thinks baristas need a well-developed ‘sensory repertoire’. “When I started out, I had no skills, no knowledge and nobody wanted me. But I was one determined guy, so I went to every coffee meet I could. Especially cupping events, where I started to build up the memory bank of flavours that every barista needs to create great coffee.

And which three words would he choose to describe himself? “Passionate, calm, competitive.” A true Zen master of the marvellous art of coffee!