STORY & PHOTOS BY KATE BEARD
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Last Tuesday marked the start of this year’s London Latte Art Smackdown. The annual contest, held at Kaffeine and sponsored this year by Square Mile and Coffee Hit, will be held every Tuesday night until November 18, where the 12 finalists will go head-to-head for prizes and glory. And what are the prizes? Coffee Hit are awarding a Baratza grinder to the winner and a Rhino grinder each for the two runners-up. Square Mile is keeping mum on their prize now, which seemed to pique the interest of quite a few prospective winners.
Glenn Watson, James Bailey, and Oli Bradshaw served as judges last week; Glenn will be attending every single round to act as head judge. The judging criteria included: symmetry, contrast, cleanliness, dribbles, presentation, and cup fullness.
Baristas representing Kaffeine, Prufrock, Browns of Brockley, Curators Coffee Gallery, Artisan, Her Majesty’s Coffee, and Taylor St. Baristas poured their best tulips, hearts, and rosettas. Hands shook and cups overfloweth’d as the nervous contestants strived to pour a pleasing pattern.
When the steam settled, Sam Cufflin of Artisan Coffee, Ross Brown of Browns of Brockley, and Tim Shaw of Curators Coffee had proved themselves to be the best of the night and became the first three finalists to secure a spot at Square Mile next month.
Just before everyone cleared out, we got an unexpected bonus round. Unsatisfied with last year’s results (or maybe just for the lols), James Bailey (who came first) and Jeremy Challender (who came second) went head to head once again, with people kindly offering reminders that etching was still not allowed. Despite the judges showing a favour towards symmetry in their cups the entire night, Jeremy boldly went for an asymmetric pour. But it didn’t pay off ”James walked away with his title defended and latte art honour intact.
In the bustle of people emptying out towards the nearest pub, I tried to gather the finalists for a photograph.
œHey guys, can you get together for a photo?
œCan you look here this time?
Ah, well. Maybe next time.
When asked what they’d do with the £480 cash prize, the different motivations of the contestants became clear. Sam said he’d put the money towards buying an espresso machine for his house, though he is undecided as to which one because he has only been working at Artisan for four months. œAsk me again at the final. I might know more about coffee machines then. Tim said he’d buy a Chemex for himself and his dad, because he really wants his dad to have one. œI’d also get paints and drawing supplies, he added. As for Ross, he would just get a taxi home. œFrom Square Mile to Brockley? That’d just about cover it.
Round two of the London Latte Art Smackdown continues tonight at Kaffeine, with drinks from 7 pm and the first milk being steamed at 7:30 pm sharp.