Thursday Night Throwdowns (aka TNT) are regular local latte art competitions happening all over the country. Schyler Cunningham, our store leader at Mudhouse Mill Creek, has taken on organizing and hosting the Charlottesville area events at our downtown Charlottesville coffee house.
Schyler describes it as essentially “a barista party. For baristas, celebrating baristas, by baristas. All that jazz. It’s a space for people to come together, enjoy some music and show off skills to an appreciative–often adoring–audience. Anyone competing has the chance to get to know other professionals as well as celebrate their own skills. Really, it’s just feel good time with an MC and raffle prizes.”
Schyler says it’s been rewarding to see the excitement and camaraderie from fellow cafes and baristas. “I think the events have shifted my focus from nerding on coffee to simply enjoying the coffee in whatever way it brings people together.”
The rules are pretty straightforward; it’s a single-elimination bracket. Two baristas face off and get one shot to pour their best latte art. For Mudhouse throwdowns, every barista pours an 8 ounce drink. Every round, every barista has to pour the same design (heart, rosetta, tulip). Once they reach the fourth round, they can free-pour (create whatever design they want).
We reach out to participating cafes and Mudhouse coffee fans to judge. Before the competition, we talk to the judges about design components and run through examples to calibrate the judges. To preserve impartiality, the judges also do not know which barista poured each design. Latte art is judged on several factors:
- Symmetry of the design. The design is also expected to be perpendicular to the handle, in the center of the cup and filling the majority of the surface area.
- Texture of the milk. Should be consistent without large bubbles or being too thin or too foamy.
- Contrast of the design and the surrounding espresso.
- Execution of the design as to how well the barista completed the design.
- Complexity of the design. (A heart is less difficult to execute than a swan or tiered tulip. But that doesn’t mean a heart will immediately lose to another design since it could be better in the other categories.)
Come watch the fray or join the fray at our next event on July 7th!