Drinkable art

Includes: Jubala Village Coffee, Raleigh, NC   

A few nights ago I went to my first-ever latte art competition — Triangle TNT, or Thursday Night Throwdown, sponsored by local Counter Culture Coffee and held at Jubala Village Coffee. (Throwdown locations rotate throughout the Triangle.)

What fun!

A pretty good number of baristas from near and far came to compete. The atmosphere was decidedly hipster, complete with plenty of tattoos and PBR. But North Raleighites were well represented, too. (It makes me smile that Pabst Blue Ribbon — the cheap trash beer back in the day when I was in college — is so beloved and groovy today.)

The action was pretty non-stop for a few hours, and the mood was convivial — lots of friendly competition and ribbing, but always with a smile.

Here’s how it worked: The competing baristas paid an entry fee, and all their names were put into a container. Each randomly drawn pair came behind the bar, then drew a slip of paper from another container that dictated their artwork: rosetta, heart, freestyle or the intimidating phoenix.

rosettas

freestyle peach

Sorry I don’t have a photo of a phoenix — which can actually be any bird — it’s a tough one to execute and the competitors clearly struggled.

I’ve received lattes with designs lots of time — especially at Cafe Helios, one of my favorites. But I had no idea they’re created simply by pouring. It’s amazing! (I had assumed stirrers or other tools were used. Apparently, they’re allowed                                                         sometimes in some competitions elsewhere.) A barista standing beside me at the bar tried to explain technique when I asked, but my mind got lost amongst the bubble eliminating, pouring from high and low, the espresso crema versus the steamed milk, etc.

The winners of each one-to-one matchup advanced to the next round. But because there were an odd number of names, at the end of each round someone previously eliminated was allowed back into the fray when their name was drawn from the “redemption bucket.”

Here’s a series of hearts (including one tiny one poured into a demitasse cup):

 

The winners of each one-to-one matchup advanced to the next round. But because there were an odd number of names, at the end of each round someone previously eliminated was allowed back into the fray when their name was drawn from the “redemption bucket.”

The best part: we audience members were the judges, and we also got the drink the spoils. Lattes for all! (They were so rich and creamy — I guess because I’m used to drinking my lattes with skim milk.)

Observers were told to look for qualities like symmetry, layering effect, definition and how much of the cup was taken up by the design. We voted by a show of hands.

All the baristas’ work was fantastic. But most of the night I was pulling for Deanna from Counter Culture Coffee, who consistently executed some of the most creative and complex designs. But in the end, she was knocked out of the next-to-last round by Michael, from Cafe Driade and Open Eye Cafe.

Michael won the pot of entry $$ by beating his final competitor in a left-handed pour into a ramekin.

It was my first, but certainly not my last, throwdown.

winner Michael is in the blue shirt

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About atarheeltastes

I'm a passionate foodie who started this "temporary" blog during a gustatory tour of Tuscany. I decided to continue, since I love to dream about, plan for, prepare, eat and write about food!
This entry was posted in Raleigh, NC, Restaurants, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Drinkable art

  1. Rachel Clarke says:

    That must have so cool to watch. Great post.

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