The strength of the coffee community in the Twin Cities is undeniable. Not only to we have a slew of fantastic local roasters and a versatility of coffee sourcing and ambience in our shops, but there is a tangible camaraderie between shops and baristas. We talk each other up and visit each other at work, and from time to time we throw latte art throwdowns, rotating between shops and competitors.
“Latte Art? Throwdown? What does that even mean?” tends to be the general first response. Well, you know those pretty little things that show up at the top of your milk drinks, at least most of the time? Well it takes a lot of practice (the worst thing to hear when you hand someone their latte is: “oh that looks like a flower, did you do that on purpose?”), and sometimes baristas just need an excuse to show off, be appreciated, drink some drank and maybe earn a little extra money. The competitors each toss in five dollars to enter the competition, and the winner takes the pot. It’s a bracket contest, slowly narrowed down over the course of hours of coffee and booze.
It is, of course, a bit hubristic in nature, and fundamentally wasteful. Hundreds of shots are pulled and gallons of milk steamed to create beautiful (and sometimes not so beautiful) lattes, most of which get tossed down the sink, unless a brave soul ventures to the judges counter and asks for a free latte (which is totally kosher, by the way). It speaks to a greater issue of waste in the coffee industry, briefly touched on in the latest Coffee Guild Post, and begging to be addressed more formally.
Jesse, Coffee Educator at Intelligentsia (with whom George and I trained down in Chicago last summer), was in town so we figured we’d throw another one of these shindigs. There was beer, there were hot dogs, there were coffee-lovers galore and there were 22 competitors. All the usual suspects were there, those specialty coffee staples that are at all events, and a bunch of new faces, the biggest contingent of which were the baristas from the new World Bean (good coffee at the airport? what the what!). Even our friends from The Farewell Circuit decided to pour their first lattes tonight.
After hours of tough decisions and agonized pours (its hard when you’re not on your own turf, espresso machine/milk/espresso/pitchers/cups all play an important part of a well-executed latte, even one that’s only being judged aesthetically) the judges narrowed it down to three contestants, then two. It came down to Stephanie (Dogwood) and Amanda (Bull Run), with Amanda (of #AmandaQuotes fame) taking home the schwag–a $150 pot, gift cards and paraphernalia from Intelligentsia, and a pretty baller coffee trophy. Angry Catfish introduced this trophy last throwdown, and we’ll be passing it from winner to winner, adding signatures and shop stickers along the way.
So, the big question is, who’s hosting the next shindig?