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.
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.
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.
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.
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 #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!
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.
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!).
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.
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.
#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.
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.