San Diego TNT: Round 2 Excitement Makes for Round 3 Anticipation

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Editor’s note: Barista Magazine is thrilled to support the lively Thursday Night Throwdown series curated by the San Diego Coffee Network this year. Season one began January 21, and continued on February 20. The recap of that evening, Round 2, is below. We’re publishing this now to get folks excited about the next installment of the season, Round 3, which will take place on Thursday, March 20, at Young Hickory. If you’re anywhere around San Diego, Calif., go check out the SDTNT series. Believe, me, you’ll have so much fun, you’ll be thanking us.

Article by Jessica Percifield

Round 2 of the San Diego Thursday Night Throwdown series (SDTNT) kicked off in a large industrial garage space off-the-grid at Solutions Espresso Service in San Diego on February 20. Brian Pitman of Empire designed the rolling all-steel bar (complete with built-in sink) atop which the Synesso machine sat hot and ready. Two viewing screens graced the walls for guests: one by the brew bar stations and one directly above the contenders. Pouring tasting flights for guests before and during the competition were local roasters, The WestBean and James Coffee CoDevilicious Food Truck rolled up near the large open entrance to serve the famished baristas and guests some tasty bites.

Daniel Holcomb, owner of Coffee & Tea Collective, throws down big time.

Daniel Holcomb, owner of Coffee & Tea Collective, throws down big time.

Despite the Big Western kicking off that day in Los Angeles, the garage was flooded with people. Thirty baristas came out to compete, and when all was said and done, Vanessa Lovel of Café Virtuoso upset Round 1 champ, Josh Bonner, by pouring a perfect 10 ounce rosetta. Bonner’s free pour into a blank portafilter, while impressive, wasn’t persuasive enough to sway the judges. Taking third place was Dylan Michalek, independent, and fourth place went to Patrick Conley of Coffee & Tea Collective.

Vanessa Lovel, champ of round 2.

Vanessa Lovel, champ of round 2.

The final pour.

The final pour.

Round 3 of the season kicks off this Thursday, March 20, at Young Hickory, which serves craft beer and craft coffee from its historic North Park location. Sign-ups are at 6 p.m. and the competition begins promptly at 7 p.m. There is a $5 buy-in—winner takes all. That means even if you’re not a top contender points-wise, winning this TNT means it’s going to rain cash. (OK, so it won’t actually rain cash. Hello, it’s San Diego, and Cali’s in a drought. It is an opportunity, however, to pick up a little extra spending money and some great give-aways.)

The San Diego Thursday Night Throwdown series gives SoCal baristas a chance to showcase their skills as well as make new coffee friends.

The San Diego Thursday Night Throwdown series gives SoCal baristas a chance to showcase their skills as well as make new coffee friends.

Barista standings were just released last week, revealing the following baristas as currently in the lead. There are some talented baristas not far behind, however, so watch out:  there’s still time for an upset before the final 8 is determined for the fourth round finale on April 17 at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. For now, here’re the top four to watch as we pass the halfway point in the series this Thursday:

  1. Joshua Bonner, Independent: 105 points.
  2. Vanessa Lovel, Café Virtuoso: 70 points.
  3. Anton Dimov, Caffe Calabria: 50 points.
  4. Patrick Conley, Coffee & Tea Collective: 45 points.

Stay tuned for a recap of all the action going down on Thursday, right here on Barista Magazine’s blog. And stay tuned to the San Diego Coffee Network’s blog for all the updates!

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