THE BLOG

Scenes From a Latte Art Showdown in Brooklyn

08/03/2015 10:43am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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Story and photographs by Ben Jay, Writer at Edible Brooklyn

Last month, 32 baristas converged upon Industry City for the city's largest latte art throwdown to date, each one pouring against successive head-to-head opponents. The afternoon was a veritable clash of coffee titans fighting tooth and nail for latte supremacy, or rather, an enjoyable gathering of talented baristas from around the city having a bit of fun with their work on a Saturday. Either way, they were competing to win a $1,000 grand prize, or as organizer Ashkan Zandieh described it, "one month's rent."

The competition was held as part of the larger, daylong CoffeeOne industry gathering, which featured offerings from the likes of BÚÐIN, Poursteady, Sweetleaf (whose free, vanilla mini-donuts were a definite highlight of the day), and Boston's George Howell Coffee, plus workshops, including a particularly informative one on AeroPress from Toby's Estate. CoffeeOne was the inaugural event for New York Coffee Week, a group founded by Zandieh, founder of the real estate consulting startup RE:TEch; Emma Blankinship, Coffee Director at the Wythe Hotel; and Todd Schmiedlin, BÚÐIN's general manager.

The throwdown's rules were fairly simple, make "whatever you think will impress." Two competitors at a time poured their lattes into cups of differing size, depending on the round. Split shots made from 28 grams of Parlor Coffee's Stockist Blend were used for each pour. Each round was judged by Parlor Coffee's A.J. Walzer, Stumptown's Jaime Hodgkin and Blankinship. The espresso system itself was provided by Modbar, an event sponsor whose machine was chosen, because it has no back, according to Zandieh, which prevents competitors from hiding their work, and allows spectators to see the action.

Most designs featured the standard array of rosettas and hearts, which forced at least one of the judges to make her decisions based on crucial details.