Here Is What I Mean
I can only remember a few things from the first time I competed at a latte art throwdown, probably with good reason, I wasn't there long. This was back in early 2018 and my two good friends, Alex and Rene, joined with me. It was more of a who-could-do-best-out-of-the-three of us, since we always had our own small battles between us. We were not much younger than we are now, and we each wanted the crown of the best latte art in the shop.
I had never thought of Tijuana as a city with a large coffee presence, as San Diego was seen as the older brother in that regard. I was surprised to see a big turnout for a niche event, as well as some familiar faces. Granted, I didn't really know anyone, nor did my friends. We were somewhat of the new kids on the block. New, nervous, not knowing what to expect. To help with that, beer.
Down to the bone, a latte art throwdown is a single-elimination head-to-head competition, funneled down by a bracket. Think March Madness, for latte art. From that it seems pretty straightforward, and after attending about a dozen of them I can confirm that they are pretty simple in nature. But take some new kids and explain to them the randomness of design, cup size, and opponent and you take things to a whole new level.
That picture right above is from my first time competing. The emcee called the crowd to cheer on and I pumped my arms up right before getting on with my pour. I secretly hoped someone took a picture of that. It seemed like a pretty cool move.
Now, if you have ever drank more that three cups of coffee in a day you're familiar with the shakes. You lift your hand up in front of you and see it tremble involuntarily, the sign of one-too-many mugs of coffee. Picture that happening in front of some 50 people in a crowded room full of strangers while pouring latte art and the result is a terribly made tulip. I think I was in the first pair to compete, so I got bounced out of there rather quickly. Even with that I had fun, partly in jumping through that hurdle that seemed smaller on the other end and in laughing with my friends about the terrible shakes I displayed for everyone to see. Call it stage fright or first-time nerves, they're actually more common than you would think. I've seen them in almost every throwdown I've been to. Anyways, it was lighthearted fun, experiencing something for the first time with friends at very low stakes.
None of us got very far that day, but we all left very excited for the next one. We knew what they were about, we met with the shakes, and we knew there was beer. That one night got us a little more into the community, we learned about different coffee shops, and added a few friends on Instagram. What I didn't know was how much I would enjoy going to these events in the future, as I have plenty more throwdown stories to tell coming soon.
More To Come
I'll end this story here. As the many other throwdown stories will better show the excitement and community that comes with showing off latte art to a crowd. Welcome to the uber-chill world of latte art.