GTPulse: Call For Baristas – Traverse City’s Brew Hosting Latte Art Smackdown

If you’re a fan of lattes you’ve probably had a pretty design placed on a drink by a creative barista. Latte art has gained popularity over the years with baristas learning more techniques to beautify their caffeinated beverages through classes and even Youtube tutorials. More and more baristas are getting intricate with their designs and because of this, latte art competitions have started cropping up. Brew in downtown Traverse City is hosting their first-ever latte art smackdown this month, and they’re looking for local baristas to come and show off.

“We talked to Jen at Higher Grounds, but she is the one who teaches us latte art classes. She’s the one in charge of education over there. I’m hoping that she will compete,” Azure Klug, Brew barista said.

Brew is a proud supporter of Higher Grounds Coffee and Jen Yeatts teaches workshops on how to create beautiful latte art. Coffee culture is abundant in northern Michigan, and with so many wonderful, locally-owned coffee shops in the area, Azure and Heather thought that it would be fun to get fellow baristas together for a friendly and fun competition.

“We have two people officially signed up. Heather and Megan that work here, and I believe Aly. I’m corralling Jen from Higher Grounds too,” Azure said.

Azure is hoping for 10 competitors. Registration is listed at Eventbrite and there is a small fee to register.

“We just made an Eventbrite registration. The registration fee all goes to Cherryland Humane Society,” Heather Fleschig, team leader at Brew said.

There will be three local judges and the competition will likely be structured to gradually increase in difficulty. The competition is broken down into brackets and will have two people competing against each other at a time. The winner goes home with $100.

Most coffee drinks differentiate in their milk, coffee and foam ratios. Lattes at Brew are made with two shots of espresso, and significantly less foam than cappuccinos. The secret to making good latte art is starting with the right ratios and textures of all involved ingredients.

“The shot should have a good crema so that you have something to push down. Milk texture is probably one of the most important things. You want it to be a really incorporated, small bubble foam. It’s gonna have a velvety texture to it as opposed to a fluffy foam on top, it should be very smooth. It should be the consistency of wet paint.”

When the milk is at the right texture, it’s poured into the espresso and pushes under the espresso crema. The crema is the thin, oily layer of tan foam that sits on top of an espresso shot. The milk pushes the color from the crema up, and design is created from how that milk is poured into the espresso. 

Like Irish car bombs and tax returns, latte art is time-sensitive. Baristas have to work methodically and quickly to achieve their design. The milk begins to separate as time passes, so the quicker a design is made, the better the milk looks. 

Contestants will have a time limit and will start with basic designs first. Azure said that most baristas start with a simple circle in their lattes, and then move into the rippled heart that graces so many Instagram feeds.

“The monks head would be the first one which is just a simple circle right in the middle. From that, you move into the heart which is where instead of ending in a circle you drive your milk through to make a tail end. Heather nailed a swan which takes a lot of skill,” Azure said.

Contestants will be judged on the size, symmetry and shape of their designs. As for where all the masterfully created lattes will go?

“They’re actually just gonna be up for grabs,” Azure said. “If you’re here and you wanna come support we’ll have a donation jar out and Cherryland Humane Society is gonna have a table as well.”

The smackdown goes down Friday, February, 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Categories: GTPulse