Season 2 of the SDTNT kicked off Thursday, July 24, 2013. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Season 2 of the SDTNT kicked off Thursday, July 24, 2013. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

By Pablo Lara, SDCN Staff Writer

The white walls of Coffee & Tea Collective reflected a certain brightness: the kind that exudes excitement and good times. A grand total of 44 participants made this night the most successful “Thursday Night Throwdown” the San Diego Coffee Network has put together. The huge bracket created an environment of thrill for the competitors; a pivotal element for a good Throwdown.

Judges Shad Biaz and Rigo Hernandez. A young coffee lover snags one of the pours to taste. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Judges Shad Biaz and Rigo Hernandez. A young coffee lover snags one of the pours to taste. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

It was 6 pm and the crowd flowed much like the delicious cold brews served by Cafe Moto and Cafe Virtuoso. This necessary fuel, for such a hot summer evening, consisted of Moto’s “Viennese Blend” and a single origin Colombia Sofia. Cafe Virtuoso provided their Cold Brew blend, which I heard included Sumatra, Oaxaca and Congo beans. While Coffee and Tea Collective’s shining Linea waited in suspense, Riana Ritter (of Cafe Calabria) prepared to pull shots on the classic stainless steel La Marzocco.

Matt Barahura, Master of Ceremonies holds up a copy of The Espresso fresh off the presses. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Matt Barahura, Master of Ceremonies holds up a copy of The Espresso fresh off the presses. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

The buzzing crowd consisted of baristas from all over San Diego, including Lofty Coffee Co., Elixir Espresso Bar, Zumbar, Cafe Virtuoso, Cafe Calabria, Cafe Moto, and Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Out-of-towners included baristas from Kéan, Jorge Bourbon (a Tijuana independent), and the baristas bravos from Tijuana’s Das Cortez. Spectators of honorable mention included David Kennedy of James Coffee Co., Laurie Britton of Cafe Virtuoso, Daniel Charlson of Dark Horse, and Rigo Hernandez of San Diego Home Roasters.

Standing room only. The crowd spilled over onto the side walks of El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Standing room only. The crowd spilled over onto the side walks of El Cajon Blvd. in San Diego. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

The competition kicked off with some sexy Italo-Disco beats that inspired many tulips and rosettas. The pours were judged by Rigo Hernandez, Shad Baiz of Solutions Espresso Service and Andy Newbom, former owner of Barefoot Coffee. Competitors were given the freedom to free-pour the design of their choice and conquering the perfect tulip seemed to be the goal of the night.

Two pours. One Victor. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Two pours. One Victor. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Goody bags donated by local roasters were raffled out, participants walked away with coveted roasts and rad t-shirts. As the night acquired a much deserved breeze, tracks by Modern Talking relaxed the anxious competitors. The courageous 43 simmered down to 8 under the constant hum of Mazzers and steam. This elite group of qualifiers included Marco and Alex of Elixir, TJ of Higher Grounds in Idyllwild, David and Daniel of Coffee & Tea Collective, Adriana of Cafe Moto, Lindsey of Zumbar and Miguel of Daz Cortes.

Daniel Holcomb, owner of Coffee & Tea Collective, free-pours a tulip into a skull vase, which sets the crowd a-fire. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Daniel Holcomb, owner of Coffee & Tea Collective, free-pours a tulip into a skull vase, which sets the crowd a-fire. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle of the San Diego Coffee Network.

Daniel Holcomb of Coffee & Tea Collective poured into a skull shaped vase provided by neighboring Gym Standard, and Lindsey poured a tulip that seemed to have infinite layers. The ambiance was filled with delight as the crowd watched the pours and enjoyed delicious hand tossed marguerita pizza graciously provided by Tribute Pizza and Catering with refreshing cocktails by Cock on the Walk.  

Hand tossed, hand crafted pizzas by Tribute Pizza. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle.

Hand tossed, hand crafted pizzas by Tribute Pizza. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle.

We told you it was hand tossed. Literally. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle.

We told you it was hand tossed. Literally. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle.

By the end of the night, the anxious competitiveness had dispersed and the top 4 battled with joy. Alex was a step above TJ and Little Adriana got trumped by Big Daniel. The two finalists went on. The moment I introduced Daniel to Alex they hugged each other and quickly agreed to pour into 2.5oz demitasses. Alex was first to present his final pour: a beautiful heart. Anticipation flooded the room as Daniel gave the judges a 3 layered tulip, earning him a much deserved win.

Final pour. Daniel of Coffee & Tea Collective's pour (left) wins it for the Home Team. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle.

Final pour. Daniel of Coffee & Tea Collective's pour (left) wins it for the Home Team. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle.

As the crowd dispersed, Daniel thanked the judges with homemade preserves (lucky them!). Daniel, our humble host and winner, donated the bracket winnings to the San Diego Coffee Network, thereby facilitating the continuation of these invigorating, community-building events.

Stickers and other give-a-ways at the Latte Art Competition compliments of the Barista Guild, La Marzocco and Espresso Parts. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle.

Stickers and other give-a-ways at the Latte Art Competition compliments of the Barista Guild, La Marzocco and Espresso Parts. Photo by Jared Armijo-Wardle.

For more information on community events in San Diego, visit us at www.sdcoffeenetwork.com/events. The next Throwdown is at Lofty Coffee Co., Thursday, August 21, in Encinitas at their new roastery off North Coast Hwy 101. We look forward to seeing you there!

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