Iron Barista Challenge Builds Coffee Community in L.A.

The people of Westeros have the Ironborn, the people of Los Angeles have the Iron Baristas. Ok, the California compeition probably draws more from Iron Chef than the Seven Kingdoms of Game of Thrones, but still ¦ Well, no, actually, the competition is really nothing like the seaborn raiding and piliging that the natives of the Iron Islands are best known for, and it is very similar to the Iron Chef television show, so that is certainly where the inspiration (in part) came from. That plus the Thurday Night Throwdown philosophy of bringing together the local coffee community for fun, compeition and collegiality.


We were contacted by Bobby Roshan of Demitasse  in L.A. about the event, and we were hooked immediately on the concept. Teams of two or three baristas compete to make specialty drinks out of ingredients that are only revealed to them at the last minute. Adam Scott Paul from LA Coffee Club emceed the most recent installment of the Iron Barista competition which took place on the last Thursday in May, and Bobby wrote us to tell us about it.

Angelinos took the Thursday Night Throwdown to a whole new level on  Thursday night, May 29. The Third Iron Barista Challenge, hosted by Demitasse and Chimney, pitted teams of baristas against each other as they had to make signature drinks using coffee, tea and/or espresso combined with mystery bags of ingredients.

The crowd and judges at the Iron Barista Challenge.
The crowd and judges at the Iron Barista Challenge. (Photos by Jared Tan –

The first round saw eight teams from across the city (representing Compelling and Rich, Augie’s, Fix, Chimney, Cognoscenti, Demitasse, True and Brave and others) make signature drinks in 15 minutes using Thai curry, almond butter, Thai chilies, bay leaf, tamarind paste and strawberry Pocky.

Baristas worked as teams creating drinks out of an assortment of odd ingredients.
Baristas worked as teams creating drinks out of an assortment of odd ingredients.

The judges (Tien Ngyuen of LA Weekly, Anna Scott of KCRW and Nguyen Tran of Starry Kitchen) scored them on overall taste, coffee factor, creativity/use of ingredients and presentation.

Making one of the drinks.
Making one of the drinks.

All 8 eight teams were ranked and the top two teams (Demitasse and Fix) went head-to-head in a second round, where new mystery ingredients had to be used “ strawberries, coconut milk, spam, green tea aero bars and licorice.

But there was a twist. With just eight minutes to go, a new ingredient was thrown into the mix “ maggi “ that teams had to use. Ultimately, Demitasse came out on top making a maggi “ strawberry tea served next to a coconut milk, licorice and green tea aero bar cortado with spam covered in cinnamon on the side.


Drink up!
Drink up!


Baristas Jesse Madrid, Denise Maldonado, and Alex Rankin created the winning concotion and claimed the title of the third Iron Barista Challenge.

We love seeing new and inventive ways to gather the coffee community together and mix-up the competition aspects of a throwdown. Not that there’s anything wrong with a straight up latte art competition, but thing like the Iron Barista Challenge are also great and can obviously be a really fun time for baristas and spectators alike. If you get up to something similar in your neck of the woods, let us know about it! We love to support and promote this great community of ours!

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