London Latte Art Smackdown Series Continues!

Hana of Taylor St Baristas.

STORY & PHOTOS BY KATE BEARD
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE

London’s most elite milk artists gathered once again last Tuesday to continue this year’s London Latte Art Smackdown. With ghoulish Jack-O-lanterns grinning from the countertop, and pumpkin pasteis de nata on offer (but nary a #PSL in sight) it was a very festive heat. Even more people crowded into Kaffeine than the first week ”most likely attracted by those seriously delicious pastries. Or maybe it was the baristas they were here to see? ¦

Peter Dore of Kaffeine welcomes everyone and kicks off Heat 2.
Peter Dore of Kaffeine welcomes everyone and kicks off Heat 2.
Festive Jack-o-lanterns decorate the shop.
Festive Jack-o-lanterns decorate the shop.

A diverse range of cafés such as Nude Espresso, Artisan, Taylor St. Baristas, Curators Coffee, Prufrock, Iris & June, Elliot’s, and Kaffeine itself were represented in this heat.

Jamie of Elliot's.
Jamie of Elliot’s.
Karolina of Nude.
Karolina of Nude.
Sam of Kaffeine.
Sam of Kaffeine.
Julie of Artisan.
Julie of Artisan.

Back behind the counter for the second week in a row was Glenn Watson, coffee photographer extraordinaire. Joining him this time as guest judges were Philip Wain, bass player and elusive coffee blogger, as well as Ben Townsend from acclaimed London café The Espresso Room.

Honorable judges Phil "Bass" Wain, Glenn Watson, and Ben Townsend presiding.
Honorable judges Phil “Bass” Wain, Glenn Watson, and Ben Townsend presiding.
Most of the time, the judges' decisions were unanimous.
Most of the time, the judges’ decisions were unanimous.

Interestingly, in comparison to last week, an extra layer of thoroughness was brought to the judging procedure, which was based on the following categories: symmetry, contrast, cleanliness, presentation, and cup fullness.

Friends and colleagues were there to support their favorite baristas.
Friends and colleagues were there to support their favorite baristas.
David of Artisan.
David of Artisan.
Florian of Taylor St Baristas.
Florian of Taylor St Baristas.
Jeremy Challender (Prufrock) and Andrew Tolley (Taylor St, Harris + Hoole) look gleefully on.
Jeremy Challender (Prufrock) and Andrew Tolley (Taylor St, Harris + Hoole) look gleefully on.

As the rules say for this year’s competition, only the three basic latte art patterns are allowed: tulips, hearts, and rosettas. Yet even within this limited range of choices, one design became the overwhelming favorite of the hopeful champions.

A veritable field of tulips sprung up from the skilled hands of the baristas, with barely a heart or a rosetta in sight. A few of us in the audience pondered the prevalence of the multi-tiered designs. Was it perhaps that hearts would be seen as too easy by the judges, and therefore not scored as high as a œharder  design? Did rosettas seem like too much of a risk? They can be wily little things to deal with, especially under pressure.

Lukasz of Curators.
Lukasz of Curators.
Freda of Taylor St Baristas.
Freda of Taylor St Baristas.
Hana of Taylor St Baristas.
Hana of Taylor St Baristas.

And the pressure was definitely there. Despite being among friends and colleagues ”or perhaps because of it ”the baristas showed signs of nervousness and took risks they would normally not take in the shop. Some pours looked to be going so beautifully well, only to spill over the edge of the cup at the last second. Sometimes that last tier just wouldn’t fit in the cup, no matter how mightily the barista called upon the laws of surface tension and fluid dynamics.

Heidi of Prufrock.
Heidi of Prufrock.
Panda of Curators.
Panda of Curators.
James of Iris & June.
James of Iris & June.

Everyone managed to stay in good spirits though ”there was cheap beer, good company, and pumpkin-flavored pastries, after all. In the end, Karolina from Nude, David from Artisan, and James from Iris & June made it through to the finals on November 18th, where they’ll join 9 others for the opportunity to win £480 and other top secret prizes.

Heat 2 finalists James, Karolina, and David.
Heat 2 finalists James, Karolina, and David.

Round 3 of the London Latte Art Smackdown continues tomorrow night at Kaffeine, with continuing sponsorship by Square Mile and Coffee Hit.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
headshot-1Kate Beard
is a photographer, writer, travel aficionado, sometimes barista, and coffee obsessive. Born and raised in the South, she absconded to Europe in 2009 to travel and pursue higher education. She’s always seeking out the perfect photo, a good story, a tasty cup of coffee, or a new place to explore – whether at home or abroad. Kate is at her happiest when she can combine all these things at once. She and her two fat guinea pigs, Rosalind and Celia, currently call London home. See more of Kate’s work at www.asouthernbellein.com Twitter/Instagram @SBinLondon

 

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