Recap of the August Counter Culture Coffee “TNT” Latte Art Competition at Sola Coffee & Cafe’

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September Latte Art Throwdown at Sola Coffee

Sola Coffee & Cafe’ in North Raleigh was the host for the August Counter Culture Coffee latte art competition, lovingly known as the Thursday Night Throwdown or “TNT” for short. As shared in my July TNT recap post, the purpose of these friendly competitions is to cultivate a coffee culture that respects presentation and quality coffee drinks and provides an opportunity for the local coffee community to come together and have some fun!

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Spectators at Sola Coffee watching the throwdown unfold

Sola Coffee & Cafe is relatively new to the local coffee scene being open for only a little over 6 months, but they dove in head first and did a fantastic job of hosting their first TNT competition. The pool of baristas competing was the largest I have ever seen (there were a total of 28) and the crowd of spectators gathered was pretty darn big too.

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Barista from Cafe Helios prepares his latte

As always, Lem Butler of Counter Culture did an awesome job of MCing the competition and keeping things moving along seamlessly.  Things got kicked off shorlty after 7pm with the first two baristas going head to head to create their latte art to be presented and scored by a panel of three judges.

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“Tulip” design latte art

Latte art is typically judged based on four criteria: balance and symmetry, use of space, color contrast and definition, and overall impression.  The judges compare the appearance of the two drinks based on these factors and decide which barista will move on to the next round.

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Baristas working at the espresso machine

As the competition advances, baristas will sometimes be asked to pour their drinks blindfolded or will willingly choose to use increasingly smaller cups to present their drinks. These variations make creating latte art more difficult and can cause for some interesting results from even the most experienced baristas.

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The crowd waiting for the final results

After several rounds of competition, the field was narrowed down to two baristas to face off in the final round.  It was a fun evening that saw a plethora of great pours from the many great local baristas, but it all came down to Austin Oliver of Jubala Village Coffee and Michael Harwood of Open Eye Cafe in the final round.

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August 2012 TNT Winner
Michael Harwood of Open Eye Cafe in Carrboro

Both Austin & Mike did a great job, but in the end Mike of Open Eye Cafe was crowned the August TNT champion. With that, he won some prizes and bragging rights for a month before being called on to return to help judge the next throwdown. The details for the next TNT competition are provided below. You can visit my flickr photo album for more of my pictures from the August 2012 TNT Latte Art Throwdown at Sola.

September TNT event Details
– Date/Time: Thursday September 27th,  7-9:30pm
– Location: Scratch Bakery – 111 Orange Street – Downtown Durham
– Free & Open to the public to watch
– $5 for baristas to enter the competition

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