Throwdowns for the SPCA and Other Ways You Can Benefit Your Community

SPRO Coffee Lab in San Francisco will host an event for the SPCA, bringing to light the different ways that shops can use coffee events to support their communities.


Photos courtesy of SPRO Coffee Lab

It was a no-brainer for Liza Otanes, cofounder and owner of SPRO Coffee Lab, to support the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). “While our founding team have various charities that we could potentially help raise awareness for, I have always had a soft spot for animals and happen to be a fur baby mom of two—an 8-year-old Pom named Shiro and a 2-year-old English Creme Golden named Riesling,” she shares.

Riesling, one of Lizas dogs, outside of SPRO Coffee Lab in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco.

On Saturday, Liza and the team at SPRO Coffee Lab will be hosting Creatures of Habit, an event described as, “a first-of-its-kind specialty coffee throwdown (focused on competing in three different categories) at Spark Social SF.” Going beyond the traditional latte art throwdown format, Creatures of Habit asks baristas to show off their coffee skills to a panel of judges featuring a mix of coffee professionals and coffee consumers. “In each round baristas will throw down against one another to prep a three-course flight—a shot of espresso (dialing in using an unmarked bag of beans), a latte, and a signature coffee cocktail for which baristas will need to use all of the random ingredients we provide them,” a press release states. 

Along with cash prizes for the winners, a portion of the proceeds will go to the local SPCA, which makes sense for the Bay Area-based coffee shop. “The outdoor venue that our coffee shop is located is in fact dog-friendly, so many of our VIP customers also bring their dogs by (many of them adopted/rescued), and these selfless creatures have brought plenty of smiles, laughter, and therapy, helping to create the light-hearted and welcoming feel-good vibes to the environment around us for which we serve our coffee,” Liza shares.

More details on the Creatures of Habit event, including prizes for each bracket of the competition.

Oftentimes, the glory of winning a throwdown or coffee competition is enough to get baristas to flock to an event, and folks like Liza are using the opportunity to point a spotlight at local charities and causes. The causes have been both personal and sweeping. Years ago, Joe Coffee in New York City hosted a series of throwdowns to benefit one of their employees when they were diagnosed with breast cancer, and today, the Bay Area Coffee Community (BACC) will be hosting a throwdown to benefit Al Otro Lado, a nonprofit providing legal assistance to indigent deportees, migrants, and refugees in Tijuana and Los Angeles, at Ritual Coffee Roasters.

Events like these are not just good for the community, but also good for creating community. As Liza mentioned, she plans to invite both coffee professionals and consumers, and events focused on benefiting a charity can bring in folks who are not coffee professionals. Likewise, because baristas are coming together for a common good, the events tend to be less about winning and more about getting as many participants as possible to rally behind a cause.

If youre in San Francisco this week, youll be busy—the BACC throwdown is TONIGHT, and Creature of Habit takes place the very next day.

About Ashley Rodriguez 413 Articles
Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at