Editor’s note: Barista Magazine has been honored to sponsor the Los Angeles TNT Latte Art events over the course of 2013, which have been organized by the awesome Todd Goldsworthy of Klatch Coffee. The series culminated with a showdown of the L.A. champs versus the victors from the Bay Area Coffee Community, in San Francisco on December 5. Here, Todd tells the tale of how it all went down…
By Todd Goldsworthy, Klatch Coffee Guru
I had the great pleasure and opportunity to travel to San Francisco for the Bay Area Coffee Community (BACC) vs. Los Angeles TNT (LATNT) Latte Art Championship. The prizes were plentiful: everything from a Baratza grinder, to a trip to the BGA’s barista camp and cold hard cash! The real prize, though, would be bragging rights of having the best latte art in California, and those of us hailing from L.A. came with with our game faces on. I entered Four Barrel’s café, where the showdown would take place, around 6 p.m. on December 5, and was warmed by enthusiastic and friendly greetings from many of the Bay Area’s finest in the coffee community. I was asked to represent L.A. by judging the competition alongside Hiver Van Geenhoven from Chromatic Coffee and coffee legend Andrew Barnett, founder of Linea Caffe, I of course said yes!
Sixty-four competitors were signed up for the BACC’s epic season finale, including four of L.A. TNT’s finest who were ready to show the BACC what we’re made of. The three L.A. TNT Champions were Runei Matsumoto, Drew Alcala, and Eugene Lee, who had automatically qualified to represent L.A. in the California Grand Championship at the end of the night. Go Get ‘Em Tiger’s Matt Wygal made the trip up north to support as well as compete against the BACC.
Shortly after 7 p.m., competitors were ready, judges were ready, and the beer had been tapped. Let the TNT begin! BACC organizer Richard Sandlin began by announcing the night’s rules and current standings. It was then that I witnessed the once friendly, welcoming Bay Area baristas, quickly changing their tune when they heard L.A. was here to represent, and thus began chants of “Beat L.A., Beat L.A., Beat L.A.” and a long night of trash talk. BACC was friendly but ruthless, saying L.A. “suburban speak” was hard to understand and that they were surprised we found somewhere to park our Hummers. Instead of verbal retaliation, we decided to let the talent speak for itself.
Pour by pour was set in front of the judges and 64 competitors turned to 32. Thirty-two became 16, and 16 became eight. The top eight were ready to do this: the group included Runei Matsumoto and Drew Alcala from SoCal. Then eight became four, and Runei and Drew continued to hold their own. The Bay Area community was completely blown away by the intricacies of their pours.
When the top two were announced, I felt deja vu: just one month earlier, Runei and Drew had gone head to head in L.A. for the title of champion, and now they were vying for the title again. The BACC crowd became noticeably tamer as they watched to see which L.A. barista would be crowned the winner here in San Francisco. Pours were set down, judges debated, and in the end all finger pointing went to Drew Alcala’s cup. Runei took second place and Patrick of Bellano Coffee, took third.
Next up, the event of the night—the one for all the bragging rights: the California Latte Art Championship commenced. L.A.’s top three had traveled to San Francisco for this: Runei, Drew, and Eugene would battle against the BACC’s Leslie from Bellano’s Coffee, Taylere from St. Frank Coffee, and Selina from Blue Bottle. The L.A. men vs. the Bay Area ladies… and what a great match up it was.
First up… the ladies! Leslie, Taylere, and Selina went head to head (to head?) to determine who would duke it out against L.A. Selina won, earning the right to represent the Bay Area. (Ironically, Selina recently moved to L.A.)
Next up: the L.A. men would compete to see who would do battle against Selina in the final pours of the California Championship. Eugene took it and moved on to the finals. After a long conversation amongst the judges and a very difficult decision to make, the California Latte Art Champion is announced: Eugene Lee of Cafe Dulce!
Los Angeles came, saw, and brought out our big ass broom for the sweep taking home 1st and 2nd place at the BACC finale and the overall awesome title of California Champion! So if you are ever looking for real latte art you know what city CA to get to.
Hey BACC: if you want any tips on how to pour better latte art, our L.A. baristas will be happy to lend a hand… (Boom!)