KY vs. TN Latte Art Throwdown Continues Grand Tradition

The Kentucky vs. Tennessee latte art throwdown has become one of the region’s most looked-forward-to events of the year, and 2015’s installment was no exception

Forty-eight baristas competing for bragging rights and killer prizes hustled their way into the roster of the annual Kentucky vs. Tennessee Latte Art Throwdown that took place at Spencer’s Coffee in Bowling Green, Ky. in late 2015 as soon as it was open for sign-ups. When the eagerly anticipated day of the event finally arrived, roasters drove from a 300-mile  radius, sampling some of their finest beans and giving guests tips on how to brew their best  coffee at home. Picture-perfect lattes were  poured, purchased, and enjoyed by a packed
house. Best of all,  well over $1,000 was raised in a single evening to benefit an amazing local nonprofit.  It was the Kentucky vs. Tennessee Latte Art Throwdown & Caffeination Celebration ”there’s just really  nothing else quite like it.
KY vs. TN Latte Art Throwdown Continues Grand Tradition
Baristas and roasters traveled from as many as 300 miles away to join in the fun at the 4th annual KYTN Latte Art Throwdown held at Spencer’s Coffee in Bowling Green, Ky. Photo by Loren Gifford.
Now in its fourth year, the KYTN Throwdown ”sponsored by La Marzocco USA and Pantechnicon Design of  Seattle, the event drew baristas from all over Kentucky and Tennessee (and even Houston and  New York City) for a raucous latte art competition that was as competitive as any other. The 48-person bracket included baristas from Sunergos Coffee and Quills Coffee of Louisville; Barista  Parlor, Steadfast Coffee, and Crema of Nashville; just to name a few of the awesome coffeehouses represented, and were judged by the  power trio of Emily Sill (formerly of Quills Coffee and Barista Parlor, now with Revelator Coffee),  La Marzocco’s David LaMont, and past  Coffee Fest Latte Art Champ Ryan Soeder.
KY vs. TN Latte Art Throwdown Continues Grand Tradition
The poker-faced judges. Photo by Loren Gifford.
The baristas competed for prizes from sponsors including Saint Anthony Industries, Baratza,  Prima Coffee, Acaia, Brew Global, MistoBox, Barista Magazine, Ancap USA, Caffe Werks, Able  Brewing, Sunergos Coffee and Sprudge. Audience members were treated not only to the  competition, but also to pastries and craft beer, and could pre-purchase the lattes being poured  during the competition ”and all proceeds from purchases and competition buy-ins went to the  Center for Courageous Kids, a donor-supported nonprofit camp in nearby Scottsville, Ky. that  serves families of children with special needs.  Steadfast & Sunergos also brewed up their finest  coffees via Chemex and GS/3 for sampling during the event.
KY vs. TN Latte Art Throwdown Continues Grand Tradition
Baristas competed on a brand new, three-group La Marzocco Linea PB, customized with white  powder coat and walnut accessories by Jacob Ellul-Blake at Pantechnicon Design. Photo by Loren Gifford.
A new  wrinkle for KYTN4 was the addition of a Dice Round, in which baristas were forced to pour a  specific design into a specifically-sized cup. This led to at least one epic swan-off, and  provided a more challenging test of overall barista skills. And for the first time, the KYTN host  came away with the win, as Spencer’s lead barista Nathaniel Settle took first over second-place Lydia Huested of Sunergos Coffee, and third-place John Quinn of  High Brow of Franklin,  Tenn.
KY vs. TN Latte Art Throwdown Continues Grand Tradition
Kenny Smith of Sunergos, deep in competition mode. Photo by Loren Gifford.
All told, it was a night of great coffee, great community and great compassion. The miles  between Louisville and Nashville (not to mention a dozen other cities) were made miniscule; the  barriers that can separate customers and cashiers were broken down over steamed milk and  shared laughs. And $1,350 was raised for the Center for Courageous Kids, a facility whose  amazing work I have  seen firsthand, as my  two sons are both  on the autism spectrum.
KY vs. TN Latte Art Throwdown Continues Grand Tradition
Forty-eight baristas competed for amazing prizes and bragging rights at the 4th annual KYTN Latte Art Throwdown. Photo by Loren Gifford.
For more information on participating in and/or sponsoring the 2016 KYTN Throwdown, email
Justin Shepherd is owner/operator/aficionado of Spencer’s Coffee, and the creator of the KY/TN Latte Art Throwdown. For tips on creating your own charitable coffee event, or to volunteer as a sponsor for next year’s event, email  And be sure to check out Justin’s  blog on coffee brewing, retail and education at
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