Charlotte Coffee Community Comes Together in a Big Way for BrewTang Jam

Brew-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothin’ to Froth With:  Two days, six classes, one latte art competition, and a whole lotta Wu

ARTICLE BY DIANA MNATSAKANYAN
PHOTOS BY JOSHUA VASKO

The weekend of March 7 and 8 was a busy one for the crew at The Daily Press in Charlotte, N.C. Months of planning, hundreds of emails and countless hours of prep all led to a weekend-long Southeast Barista Jam in the heart of the Queen City’s Arts District. Named #BrewTangJam as an homage to Daily Press owner Lindsey Pitman’s love of the Wu-Tang Clan, this event focused on not only bringing high-quality and informative coffee and tea classes to Charlotte, but also on making specialty coffee accessible, engaging, and fun.

Donuts from Whisk & Wood.
Donuts from Whisk & Wood.
Rusty schools attendees in his Retronasal & Sensory Analysis class.
Rusty schools attendees in his Retronasal & Sensory Analysis class.

Saturday morning began with fresh Whisk & Wood pastries and BUNN representative Rusty Angell’s Retronasal & Sensory Analysis class. Attendees blind-tested sodas, chocolates, and candies in order to better understand both the biology and the psychology of taste and smell. By the end of the session, attendees had the tools to analyze and critically assess how various factors ”such as sights, sounds, smells, and presentation ”impact their tasting experience.

Brady gets technical in his Espresso Machine History & Mechanics class.
Brady gets technical in his Espresso Machine History & Mechanics class.

It has been said that if you know your roots you can know where you are going, and as coffee technology and science continues to expand, baristas are becoming increasingly more curious about their coffee roots. Espresso Machine History & Mechanics, the second #BrewTangJam class, was taught by Brady Butler of VP Coffee. A long-time member of the Charlotte coffee community and current vice chair of the SCAA Brewing Certificate Committee, Brady explored the storied history of the espresso machine and allowed class attendees to speculate the future of specialty coffee and espresso mechanics.

Getting down to business in Jonathan and Matt's Espresso Science class.
Getting down to business in Jonathan and Matt’s Espresso Science class.

To wrap up the first day of #BrewTangJam classes, Counter Culture Coffee’s very own Jonathan Bonchak and Matt McDaniel teamed up for an Espresso Science class. In it, attendees were able to discuss, taste, and analyze single-origin espresso courtesy of Counter Culture. Emphasis was placed on Counter Culture’s œAny Coffee, Any Brew  philosophy, a notion that has permeated much of the specialty coffee industry as more baristas, coffee shops, and roasters demand single-origin coffees and greater transparency from farm to cup.

Steve shows how it's done in a latte art demo.
Steve shows how it’s done in a latte art demo.

Resident latte art experts Steve Lim and Brent Hall kicked off the evening #BrewTangJam festivities with a latte art demo for those interested in learning more about the technical aspect of latte art throw downs. A skilled barista and seasoned coffee professional, Steve Lim has impressed many with his stunning pours, showcased on his Instagram @figtreecoffee. Steve demonstrated, with the help of SCAA-certified head judge Brent Hall, various pours created during competitions. He also spoke to beginner competitors, encouraging them to practice their craft and to focus on not only being a great artist, but also a calm, collected performer, as well.

The crowd at the latte art throwdown.
The crowd at the latte art throwdown.
Plenty of curious passersby stopped in to watch the action at the throw down.
Plenty of curious passersby stopped in to watch the action at the throwdown.
Competitors had a blast pouring off against each other.
Competitors had a blast pouring off against each other.

The #BrewTangJam latte art throwdown drew an enormous crowd, with many curious onlookers meandering in from the street and getting swept up in the excitement. As the evening progressed, it became apparent that many of the throwdown attendees were new to the Charlotte coffee scene ”in fact, most expressed surprise at the skill and passion behind the barista’s pours ,and more than once a voice could be heard exclaiming, œI had no idea people did this! 

The competition continues...
The competition continues…
There were some sick pours in Charlotte that day.
There were some sick pours in Charlotte that day.

Baristas from the Southeast and beyond poured their hearts out to represent themselves, their shops and their industry. Among those competing were baristas from Waking Life in Asheville, Not Just Coffee in Charlotte, The Village Grind in Greenville, SC ¦ a barista even migrated from Florida, and a handful of folks from Blueprint Coffee flew out from St. Louis, Missouri, to attend the weekend’s festivities! The #BrewTangJam was an excellent opportunity for coffee professionals to mingle with one another, share stories and ideas, build relationships, and interact with coffee enthusiasts and newcomers to continue to grow the Charlotte coffee community.

from left: Third Place: Jaymin McAffrey (barista at The Pickled Peach in Davidson, NC); Second Place: Diana Mnatsakanyan (head barista at The Daily Press CLT); First Place: Lindsey Pitman (owner of The Daily Press CLT)
Winners! Third Place: Jaymin McAffrey (barista at The Pickled Peach in Davidson, NC); Second Place: Diana Mnatsakanyan (head barista at The Daily Press CLT); First Place: Lindsey Pitman (owner of The Daily Press CLT)
Rusty keeps the educational hits coming.
Rusty keeps the educational hits coming.

The second day of the #BrewTangJam kicked off with BUNN representative Rusty Angell’s Brewing Science & Theory class. Geared towards both baristas and coffee enthusiasts, this class focused on making good coffee accessible and simple to even the most inexperienced coffee lovers, while not skimping on vital coffee know-how (the molecular weight of flavor molecules is real and it is important!).

Bobby's tea class.
Bobby’s tea class.

Tea is the world’s most ancient caffeinated beverage, but it has been treated as an afterthought in many modern-day coffee shops. Bobby Reitman and Rishi Tea are on a mission to change that.  In Reitman’s Tea 101  class, he discussed the history of tea drinking, from origin and harvest to varieties and processing methods. Attendees had the chance to taste, analyze, and discuss a spectrum of Rishi’s teas, learn about the essential elements of tea brewing, and discuss common misconceptions about tea.

Andrew covers agronomy in his class on origins and varietals.
Andrew covers agronomy in his class on origins and varietals.

Coffee Origins & Varietals, the sixth and final class of the #BrewTangJam, focused on not only the taxonomy and history of coffee but also explored the impact of water quality on brewing and tasting. With instruction from Andrew Ferguson, class attendees were able to sample various coffees courtesy of California-based Torch Coffee, and discussed how different minerals (or lack thereof) could affect brewing and tasting quality.

Thank you, sponsors!
Thank you, sponsors!

#BrewTangJam class attendees and throwdown participants all went home with fantastic goodie bags that were packed to the brim with local and national samplers, coupons, stickers, buttons and more.

Goodie bags indeed!
Goodie bags indeed!
Lindsey is already planning the next #BrewTangJam, so stay tuned for details.
Lindsey is already planning the Daily Press’s next #BrewTangJam, so stay tuned for details.

Despite being less than a year old, The Daily Press CLT has made a great push to bring specialty coffee education to Charlotte: shop owner Lindsey Pitman, passionate about craft coffee and community, is already in the throes of planning next year’s #BrewTangJam. As the Southeast’s specialty coffee industry continues to flourish and grow, you can expect to see her and her Brew Tang Clan enthusiastically contributing in whatever ways possible, be it with their monthly community education classes, organizing brew-offs and latte art throwdowns, or simply creating another a clever hashtag. The drive and focus of Pitman and her shop is to continue to support the Southeast’s baristas and coffee professionals, in every way possible.

After the success of the #BrewTangJam, the Charlotte coffee community is stronger than ever.
After the success of the #BrewTangJam, the Charlotte coffee community is stronger than ever.
And a good time was had by all.
And a good time was had by all.
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