Tuesday marked my very first attempt at competing in a latte art throwdown.
For those of you that aren’t aware, latte art throwdowns are casual competitions where baristas come together to meet, greet, have a laugh with, and show off in front of other coffee professionals for an evening. The rigidity of official competition is thrown out of the window in exchange for some good old fashioned fun and tomfoolery.
Baristas from all around the South of England and beyond travelled to be a part of the spectacle of coffee. We had some beers, pizza, and blew off some steam, so to speak, in the name of friendly competition and camaraderie.
I was absolutely bricking it.
Round 1 consisted of two names being pulled at random. The two baristas would then head behind the bar and take it in turns to steam their milk and pour their design while a member of staff pulled shots for them. The two behind the bar weren’t necessarily against each other as the first round was judged on a points system. So each design would be judged on skill, symmetry, contrast etc. The top 8 would be counted up and then would go through to the next round. My name was called last because of course it would be. Although I did have the pleasure of being behind the bar with an old friend of mine, Lucy White, who used to work at Costa with me.
Round 2 put baristas against each other as a latte art dice was thrown and they had to match the design as best they could. Two baristas put their drinks down at the same time and 3 judges pointed to the one they thought was best, knocking out the design with the least votes. Round 3 used the intermediate latte art dice, and then the advanced dice until a final winner was called.
I didn’t even make it through to round 2 but I did have a blast. I’m really not happy with my pour at all as I know I can do better but it was my first time competing and the mixture of nerves, pressure, and the crowd didn’t do me any favours. The calibre of skill was so high and, honestly, it was an honour to have even been invited.
The winner of the evening was Heidi Philip-Smith from Coffee Lab who came second in the UK latte art championship behind Dhan Tamang a couple of months ago and who represented the UK in the World Latte Art Championship.
Anybody thinking about going to an event like this but isn’t sure, I would definitely say do it. If you’re worried about not being good enough, I thought that too, and I was easily in the bottom two pours of the evening, but coffee is all about community and throwdowns bring people together in a beautiful way. It was very much a sausage fest but we can talk about what a male dominated industry the coffee scene is another time.
If you think you want to host a throwdown but aren’t sure, just make sure you are well organised so the night runs smoothly. Reach out to baristas on social media like Artigiano’s did, and don’t be scared to ask for a couple of pounds to cover your costs. We were happy to pay for all you can eat pizza and beer (although I didn’t eat anything as I didn’t think I’d keep it down).