Five minutes with… Gentlemen Baristas

Coffee pioneers Henry Ayers and Edward Parkes talk about their love of Adam Buxton, David Suchet and the National Trust

Food and Drink 20 Feb 2019

Edward Parkes and Henry Ayers of The Gentlemen Baristas
The Gentlemen Baristas' Coffee Store London Bridge
The Gentlemen Baristas Coffee House in East India

Who is your role model?

Henry Ayers: My grandfather, he taught me to always have good manners and that’s an ethos we share with the business.

Edward Parkes: My role models are my mum and dad, for a similar reason, the lessons they taught me. They brought me up to always treat people well and that’s at the core of our business.

Apart from your passport, what item can you not travel without?

Henry: I always pack my Aeropress and a coffee grinder, preferably beans too!

Ed: For me, it has to be my headphones. I like listening to podcasts, they are such good escapism, especially when combined with coffee. I particularly like Adam Buxton’s podcast, he’s really funny and a great interviewer.

What food or drink can you not live without?

Henry: Coffee! It may sound obvious, but I have to have a coffee every day. I also really love cheese. I’m a simple boy at heart, so cheddar is probably my favourite.

Ed: A coffee and a bacon sandwich in the morning – you just can’t beat the smell.

How do you take your coffee?

Henry: I take mine black, purely so I can taste all of the subtle flavours. I also love and enjoy an occasional espresso, but generally I drink pour-over and filter coffee.

Ed: I prefer Aeropress coffee – it’s a clean way to brew coffee to explore the flavours. There is something special and comforting about the smell and process of making a cafetière of coffee too. The sensory experience of it is the equivalent of comfort food.

Henry: I agree, the same with making coffee in a moka pot – especially the way it fills the house with the smell of coffee.

What do you do on a day off?

Henry: I really like cooking, especially with my four-year-old son. He’s normally a crazy little boy, but he’s very calm and focused when baking or cooking Sunday lunch. I also really like gardening when the weather is good.

Ed: Rugby is a passion of mine and I’m a member of Richmond Rugby Club. I also really enjoy driving out of London to go to National Trust properties, especially when I can poke around the vegetable and kitchen gardens.

Where is your favourite place to eat in London?

Henry: I love grazing my way through South Bank food market and letting my son run around. Greenwich food market is fantastic too.

Ed: It’s so hard to pick one place, but I do love Time for Thai on Kew Road in Richmond. It serves amazing Thai food and I go there all the time with my partner Jane – we always end up there when we’re trying to decide where to go to eat.

Apart from coffee, what are your biggest passions?

Henry: Music, gardening and cooking.

Ed: My form of escapism is to plan massive, elaborate meals that always take me longer than expected. I also like relaxing walks along the river in Richmond. Time away from work is so important to make sure you can come back better than before.

Who would your ideal dinner guest be?

Henry: David Suchet came to our coffee house in Borough once and he is an archetypal gentleman, so well mannered and really into his coffee.

Ed: Ian McKellen would be great too, he has such an interesting story and is someone who always seems interested and genuine, whatever he’s doing.

Are there any lesser-known coffee-producing regions or countries you wish were better known?

Ed: Yes! We’ve just had some amazing coffee from Uganda. It’s not completely unknown, but I wish more people realised how good the coffee is from there.

The Gentlemen Baristas have six coffee houses combining top-notch brews and food in Southwark, Borough, Fitzrovia, London Bridge, East India and at the 02 in North Greenwich. Two more are set to open in Flat Iron Square and Vinegar Yard, London Bridge in March 2019.