Coffee throwdown made art to drink
On last Thursday evening, the Eaton Venue downtown hosted the "Throwdown in Oldtown," an event to raise funds for Children First: CEO Kansas. The event revolved around the judging of cookies and latte art, attracting the area's top competitors in each field. Your favorite coffee joints and bakeries were represented in a sweaty thunderdome of sugar and caffeine, while upstairs bright young girls displayed their talents in a science fair in hopes of winning a scholarship to Space Camp. The place, not the movie.
Before you even ask, you were probably not eligible for this scholarship. Even had you dressed as a small girl and hastily thrown together a baking soda volcano, people would've realized surprisingly quickly that you were not in fact a 12-year-old girl but an adult man in an ill-fitting Girl Scout uniform. I mean, hypothetically, that might've happened. I NEVER GOT TO GO TO SPACE CAMP, OK? Adults, however, can attend Spacecamp, $600 for four days. In related news, I've planned my honeymoon.
The area's top cookie artists vied for first place in a crowded field, with attendees including Twizted Confections, Dish Diva and Cravings Gluten Free Bakery. The cookie contest was judged differently than the coffee contest, in a manner very reflective of modern American democracy. Every attendee was allowed to vote (no voter ID required!) for their favorite via $1 donations placed into a jar. Whoever got the most money was declared the winner, when in truth the winner was everyone who got to eat all of those cookies; I did not get a single cookie, so the only loser: me.
I didn't get to the cookies because I was busy judging the latte art competition, along with Nick Unruh from McPherson's Craft Coffee Parlor and "superfan" Sydney Rickman. Reverie Roaster's Andrew Gough corralled us into judging and ran the event. The contest went exceptionally smoothly and seemed to open the eyes of several first-time attendees — not only to what a "latte art competition" could be but that such an event has appeal to people beyond big giant coffee snobs like myself.
A camera positioned above the judging table gave the crowd a better view of the art on display as Gough hosted and kept the event running at a good pace. Kate Clause from Sunflower Espresso not only competed and provided support at the bar but also provided the gorgeous lever espresso machine used in the contest. Hildebrandt Farms provided the copious amounts of milk needed for the lattes, which were distributed among the crowd after each pour.
The round robin competition featured eight of Wichita's top baristas representing nearly every coffee spot in town. Espresso To Go Go, Reverie, Il Primo Espresso Cafe, Monroe Coffee, R Coffeehouse and more sent their best to compete for the bragging rights and for the prizes, an AeroPress coffeemaker and an Aerobie flying ring which was signed by the inventor of both devices.
The baristas went head to head two at a time, making latte art and placing it before the judges who would select their pick. Each round was two out of three, and while the initial rounds never made it past two pours the later rounds proved much more difficult.
The final round, between Beau from R Coffeehouse and Stephanie from Il Primo Espresso Cafe, went the full three pours and ended with Stephanie taking home the prize for Il Primo Espresso Cafe.
Unlike some of these events I've been to in the past, there was a great feeling of camaraderie and support among the contestants. The feeling was indicative of the coffee culture here in ICT — small businesses supporting one another and benefitting from the knowledge and experience of others in their field, while remaining unique and distinctive in their own offerings. Keep up with us here and on Twitter @f5coffee to be apprised of future throwdowns and other such events.