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Barista Stories: Kelvin Lee of Nostos Coffee, London

Meet Kelvin Lee, a dedicated coffee professional, originally from Hong Kong but currently calling London his home. Kelvin is a store manager at popular Nostos Coffee, where he takes care that everything goes well and charms his guests with impressive latte art creations.

Kelvin’s. passion for coffee spans back to 2015. He already stood on the stages of the UK Latte Art Championship and London Coffee Masters and he won the Fireheart latte art throwdown and the 2023 UK Matcha Latte Art championship!

He also loves to share his knowledge and passion not only with his guests but also during tailored workshops on brewing and latte art. Kelvin definitely sparks like a humble yet precious gem in the vibrant and colourful London coffee scene!

Barista Stories are sponsored by PUQpress.

Kelvin, what is your first memory with coffee? 

My first memory with coffee was when I was working at a lounge at the airport, and one of the baristas was teaching me how to make a cafe latte but I ended up making a total mess. That’s my first first-ever memory related to coffee.

​​​​​​​What inspired you to pursue a career in the coffee industry, and how did you get started? What did you do before coffee?

There’s a friend I met when I was working at Starbucks, his name is Alan. I really appreciate his effort. When I was a beginner in coffee, he spent so much time with me doing coffee hunting, teaching me all sorts of coffee knowledge and latte art, and was willing to answer my questions even if these were messages at late hours.

Moreover, I was living quite close to one of the high-end “champion” coffee shops in Hong Kong – Accro Coffee. I once had a very clean and floral, washed Ethiopian brewed by one of the baristas called Gary. I was so impressed by the brew and that’s how I got into the world of pour-over. I also had an amazing coffee from the founder Tsuyoshi, so I decided to ask if he was willing to do a pour-over class. I learnt a lot from him and I was very impressed by his brewing method Then I started practising hard just to be as good as him, I spent 1 hour in the morning before my shifts and another 1-2 hours after my work just to practice pour overs and latte art with water at home. So yeah that’s how I started.

And before working in the coffee industry, I was a salesperson and a server at an airport lounge.

Tell us a bit about the place. What is your role there?

Nostos Coffee is where I am working now. We have 2 shops and the one I am working at is near St James’s Park. We serve a wide range of coffee, from a very classic espresso to very rare coffees. We try to push the boundaries of the coffee industry and bring more different experiences to our customers. We try to make them feel like coffee is not just a standard coffee but there are lots of things behind it. If you want to know why it is so special, come to visit us! We love sharing! 

I am currently the shop manager and am trying to make sure business and coffee run well! (Still trying my best lol).

What kind of experience do you want your customers to have when they visit you at the cafe? And trainees when they attend one of your brewing and latte art classes?       

A little background sharing of Nostos first. The word means homecoming and we want our guests to feel like they are coming home. No stress, just coffee. 

I personally want our guests to feel comfortable to ask a lot of questions about what’s going on, and for coffee lovers to share and chat about coffee brewing and any other coffee-related topic.
When it comes to trainees, I would love them to feel like they are chatting with a friend, and I don’t mind sharing everything I know with them. I am willing to spend as much time with them, as long as they feel like they have learnt enough from me. 

What is your favourite part of the day in your cafe, and why?

Pouring latte art for guests and seeing their happy faces afterwards. It feels like I have done something meaningful for them, just like how I was impressed by latte art before. I love that feeling and I want to share the same with others!

How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep improving your coffee-making skills?

I guess as in how I simply just love what I am doing. I can brew coffee and make latte art  24/7 and still enjoy it. It has some sort of magic to me,

One of my dreams is to step on the World Latte Art Championship stage one day. So I stay motivated since I have a goal. Even if it might be too difficult for me, it keeps me inspired and motivated!

What are the current trends in cafes in your region? Are there any trends you promote yourself and would like to see more often in other places? 

I would say the current trend is going to be tailor-made water and the freeze distilled milk beverages. I have seen so many coffee shops doing it and it is amazing! It is good to let everyone know that coffee can be very professional, especially since guests are usually not aware of such details. 

I would also love to see more baristas start pouring fancy and complex latte art patterns when the time allows for it.

Kelvin’s signature drink for London Coffee Masters.

What are some common misconceptions about our industry that you’ve encountered, and how do you address them?

“Good latte art means the coffee will taste horrible as the coffee must be roasted dark to have good contrast, etc.” I often hear people saying this but it is not true! Nowadays, nice latte art can be done with different milks and espresso and a coffee can be both delicious and super tasty. You just need to find a way for it.

If there would be one piece of knowledge about coffee you’d like everyone to know, what would that be?

100% latte art. Again, I was impressed by the winged tulip latte art back then, and I think for baristas to make their day happier, I would love them to know latte art, so that all the customers can leave the coffee shop with a smile on their faces.

What are your other passions besides coffee?

I have a few but mainly I love music and photography. I usually play the guitar and piano when I am off work or I just bring my camera to take lots of photos. 

What coffee challenges are you looking forward to? Any new projects or collaborations?

The challenge will be a UK Latte Art Championship. If f I manage to do it again, it’s going to be my second time, still a lot of things to learn. Project-wise, nothing really new at the moment, just working on tweaking my own jug and seeing if I can start selling my own milk jug for people at a reasonable and decent price.

Quick Fire Questions for Kelvin Lee:

Would you serve filter coffee with milk if asked for it?

If they insisted, I would but still would suggest they try it without milk first.

Do you ever take sugar with your coffee?

Yes actually, but it was like 10 years ago, but not anymore now.

Espresso or Filter coffee?

Filter coffee.

Milky or Black?

Can I say both? 🙂

Do you aim for Sweetness, Acidity, or Body?

Depends on the process and what I can highlight, but for me personally I would say acidity.

Cake or Pastry with your coffee?


Sit in or take away?

Sit until they kick me out

Favourite piece of barista equipment?

Nasty jug.