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Callum Hale Thomson, the 15 year-old barista at Espresso Incognito, the coffee bar he has in a gallery in East London

Dawn CraigCallum Hale Thomson, the 15-year-old barista at Espresso Incognito, the coffee bar he has in a gallery in East London

Espresso Incognito, the coffee bar Callum Hale Thomson set up in Five Hundred Dollars, an art gallery on Vyner Street in East London, is only open the first and second Thursdays of each month from 6 to 9 p.m. and by special appointment. The hours are limited with good reason: Hale Thomson is just 15 years old, and still in school.

Last month, Hale Thomson (who goes by the nom de café of Young Barista) competed in the London and Southeast England regionals for the United Kingdom Barista Championship, and came in third place, sharing a podium with Will Corby, the winner, and John Gordon, the 2010 national champion. It might come as a surprise, but the United Kingdom is a powerhouse within competitive coffee: the World Champions for 2007, 2008 and 2009 all won with beans from London’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters, which also supplies Espresso Incognito. Hale Thomson’s score would have allowed him to compete for the national title, but his age disqualified him from advancing – semifinalists need to be at least 16 years old. The Young Barista is too young of a barista.

Next year. I recently interviewed Thomson Hale on Twitter — a twitterview? — to understand how someone too young to drive is turning out what is arguably some of the best coffee in England.

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