Feature Article: Austin Baristas

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How Do Baristas Let Off Steam?

by MP Mueller
Photographs by Chelsea Laine Francis
Video by James H. Ruiz

Thursday Night Latte Art Showdown


Together, as it turns out. On the last Thursday of each month, Austin’s finest coffee shop makers gather for Thursday Night Throwdown, or TNT, a latte art competition that provides grounds for new friendships and bragging rights.

Austin baristas
Austin baristas

TRIBEZA went out to a recent throwdown in May — this one held at Cuvée Coffee — to capture the sights and sounds in photos and a video documenting the event. (If only there was smell-o-vision.) Coffee and beer were poured; the crowd of about 100 was noisy. By 8pm the competition bracket, written on a scrap piece of cardboard box, was filled and baristas ponied up $5 for the entry fee.

It’s winner take all in this judged competition that’s been going for seven years now. But the real prize is the gilded trophy — dubbed the McFalls Cup after a previous winner — a giant golden monster composed of wood with a pitcher used for steaming milk on top. Winners get to take it back to their own coffee ground zero and autograph it with quotes for infamy. “Smoke weed” is immortalized on it by a winning barista from coffee shop Once Over.

Austin baristas

Hosted by the Austin Coffee Society, the event moves to a different independent Austin coffee shop each month. There are more than 100 of those in Austin now, estimates Lorenzo Perkins, chair of the Society and co-owner of Fleet Coffee. This competition is all about getting baristas and coffee people from around town to gather in a room and get friendly. “The whole idea is that collaboration is the new competition,” shares Perkins. “While latte art may seem to be the focus of this, the real treasure is that we are gathering in a room with people who are passionate about coffee and good things happen. We get to make better coffee, people get to drink better coffee, local businesses thrive and our community is supported.” We’ll have a cup of what he’s having.


Thursday Night Throwdown

Video by James H. Ruiz

Read more from the Makers + Industry Issue | July 2016

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