Photos by Jared Armijo-Wardle, SDCN Creative Director. Words by Pablo Lara, SDCN Assistant Editor.
Encinitas welcomed baristas and other industry professionals from their vicinity and neighboring communities such as Orange County, L.A, Tijuana and Inland Empire. Ironsmith Coffee Roasters hosted the event, their cafe/roastery perfectly suited this gathering. Although new to Encinitas, Ironsmith is quickly becoming the community center owners Raul Macias and Matt Delarosa hoped it would be.
By 6:30pm the crowed spilled on to the streets, the bracket alone reaching 50 participants by 7pm sharp. Familiar faces rejoiced to see each other and meeting new ones has a special meaning in our TNTs.
The night had plenty of overindulgence, and it came in different forms. First, our sweet-tooths were delighted by a wonderful spread of pastries lovingly baked by Foodie Folk! Secondly, our palates feasted at the Brew Bar. Coffee & Tea Collective served a sparkling iced-tea and a single origin cold-brew, made with an Ethiopia Kaffa. The brew had a rich body with notes of mandarin and milk chocolate. Cafe Virtuoso showcased their Ethiopia Shilcho, a coffee that got their head roaster, Steve vonKolkow, third place in this year's Roaster's Choice in Long Beach. Brewed over ice using a Chemex, the notes were of black tea, candied lemon and milk chocolate. Lastly, the most indulgent of all activities was of course the clash of latte art fighters!
Our ring leaders/judges were Jeff Courson, Green Coffee Sales and Marketing Manager for Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders; Dana Andrews, Junior Trader for InterAmerican Coffee and Shad Baiz, founder of Solutions Espresso Service. Their poignant scrutiny was no match for the ruthlessness of the baristas. Chipped porcelain cups were used as artillery and by the end of the night the walls were splattered with milk and espresso.
Bare-knuckle boxing, milk steaming and espresso extraction took place behind Ironsmith's handsome Slayer. With wooden paddles and naked portafilters, this hunky espresso machine proved to be seductive and photogenic!
Boxing gloves were at left home, but participants didn't fail to bring colorful pitchers!
Opening the competition was a memorable swan pour made by Mery of The Swell Cafe. Being the first pour of the night, it certainly set the bar high! Closing this initial round of free pours, in 10oz cups, was a gorgeous six-layered tulip poured by Miguel of James Coffee Co. But the question on everyone's mind was: Is Miguel's pour equally or more gorgeous than his hair?
His hair is prettier...duh
Moving into the demitasse round, competitors got the opportunity to show off their skills. These don't pertain to pouring skills only, but also focus and strategy. Each layer you stack in the small 3oz cup gets you closer to the catastrophe of spillage. Still, some baristas were able to pour four layers, and the very best even added a fifth.
Uno, dos, tres, cuatro y cinco. Dam Jacob!
By this time our judges looked conflicted. But knowing Jeff and Shad, they were probably just hungry. Too bad they couldn't leave their stations because the rest of us were enjoying delicious tacos made by the awesome peeps of the San Diego Taco Company. Nothing accompanies cold-blooded competition quite like grilled meats on a hot corn tortilla.
The night was coming to a close as the top four baristas crafted their favorite pours for the judges, in freestyle and cup of their choice.
Chris and Savannah both poured in 6oz cups. His lovely rosetta got him a spot in the final two. Ty and Jacob, in a similar fashion, coordinated to pour into gibraltar glasses. Jacob's seven-layered tulip saved him a spot in the final round. Savannah and Ty battled for the third place of the night. Ty chose the demitasse and poured a four layered tulip while Savannah, in a gibraltar glass, poured another tulip. Both were beautiful but Savannah's pour was cleaner with better contrast, attaining her third place.
The crowd craved a winner, it was a battle to the death between Chris of Elixir and Jacob of Bird Rock. Slayer did the best he could to avoid this confrontation but he found himself cornered by both baristas. At the end of this last round Jacob presented an elegant six layered tulip and Chris finished the night with a striking three-layered tulip. With more layers and heightened contrast, Jacob's pour came in first!
The crowed rejoiced and Jacob received an avalanche of hugs from co-workers and supporters. Our San Diego talent is fervently maturing, as is our sense of community. Congratulations Jacob and thank you for delighting the crowd with those masterful pours. This fabulous night would have not being possible without the generosity and care of Ironsmith Coffee Roasters, thank you guys for all that great energy. Oh yeah, and a special thanks to their sexy Slayer, he was such a flirt! See you at the finale of our third season, this time hosted by Dark Horse Coffee Roasters at their upcoming new location in Golden Hill on 25th Street. Mark your calendars for April 30th and start fasting.