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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.