Today marks the day that the United States begins its journey to be a part of the World Latte Art Championship elite: At 2 p.m. in the Activity Hall of the Boston Convention Center, the U.S. Latte Art Exhibition will commence. If all goes well, we’ll have an official U.S. Latte Art Championship—and a seat at the World Latte Art Championship table—in 2014.
But this is still a competition, oh yes sireee. The winner of the U.S. Latte Art Exhibition taking place this weekend will get one heck of a prize package!
Here’s the schedule for the U.S. Latte Art Championship:
Thursday, April 11
2–3 p.m.: Round 1
Friday, April 12
11 a.m. to 12 p.m.: Round 1 continued
3–4 p.m.: Round 2
4 p.m.: Finalists announced!
Saturday, April 13
11 a.m. to 12 p.m.: Final round
12 p.m.: Awards ceremony
And if you see any of these folks around, feel free to give them a hug: they organized this grand event. Primary organizers: Skip Finely and Sevan Istanboulian of Dalla Corte North America; Patrick Burns of Palace Coffee.
Planning committee: Lorenzo Perkins (Cuvee Coffee); Richard Sandlin (Bay Area Coffee Community); Lara Gallagher (SCAA); Tara Shenson (SCAA); Jon Stovall (Coffee Tools Ap); Garold LaRue (Avoca Coffee); Heather Ringwood (Espresso Parts); Panda Fernandez (Espresso Parts); Chris Elliott (Prima Coffee); Sonja Grant; Emma Markland Webster
Before the latte artists had a chance to get lathered into pouring intensity, I got the chance to chat with Sonja Grant, who is on the World Coffee Events Board and oversees national latte art competitions around the world, as well as Patrick Burns of Palace Coffee, who has been the man behind the mission: without Patrick, this competition wouldn’t be happening.
Sarah: You have worked on Latte Art Championship in many nations — which ones?
Sonja: I have been involved with the World Latte Art Championship since we had the first one in Greece in 2005, I was a judge then and a helper with the organizing of the judges panel. Since then I have been a part of the group that has organized and developed the championship in a world level a long with helping in countries for the national level. World Coffee Events was established in 2010 and the group of people behind the organizing the championship got bigger and more efficient, and professional. I have helped in countries like Mexico, Denmark, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Lithuania, France, Iceland, Korea, Russia, Italy (I do not remember more…) I’m going to Belgium in April and then of course I will be in Nice for the WCE World Championships 2013 in June.
Patrick: Last year I launched the Barista Throwdown league. Palace Coffee Company is in a part of the US that doesn’t have coffee culture. We are in Canyon right smack in the middle of the Panhandle of Texas. The only other coffee shops around are hours away. I desperately wanted to create a community and I know that TNT’s were successful in bigger markets. We needed to tweak ours a bit to get baristas from miles away to take part. That is how we came up with a league format (6 competitions over 6 months) where baristas earn points for each round won. We also have baristas pour in identical cups and similar designs (heats against hearts etc…). It was successful so much so that other communities started to look at it for their own communities (Austin, Dallas, Kansas City, San Francisco). I competed at the Big Central this year and met Skip Finley at the TNT. We talked about the need for a US Latte Art Championship and he asked if I thought the league format could help get baristas from across the country together. When I got back home I put together a flow chart together of how it could work up from a district to regional, to national level. He then presented it at the February 4th SCAA meeting to get their approval. They said yes and then we started working toward an exhibition to showcase the potential competition.