words by Ari Keene, photos by Alex Clarke Photo
This month’s Thursday Night Throwdown (TNT), coordinated by the San Diego Coffee Network, was hosted at Achilles Coffee Roasters. Located in downtown San Diego right on B Street, this outdoor café serves a variety of coffees, proudly naming them after famous San Diego hot spots such as Gaslamp Blend, Sunset Cliffs, and Balboa Park Decaf. Last week’s throwdown brought not only some of the most impressive rosettas ever poured, but an all womxn team of judges, an enthusiastic local artist, amazing street tacos, and a complimentary brew bar by Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. Local artist Matt Q. Spangler displayed an assortment of light hearted, loner tin Robot he has been drawing since 2010. Spangler finds a lot of joy in being able to convey both his imagination and every day life experiences through his illustrations. His work is currently being displayed at Downtown Disney’s Wonderground Gallery. Alongside Spangler, a few generous baristas from Bird Rock Coffee Roasters served up some phenomenal pour overs of an El Salvador from producer Aida Batlle's Finca Kilimanjaro. This 95pt naturally processed specialty lot bursts vibrant flavors of blackberry, guava, and cocoa nib. Bird Rock is also donating a portion of sales from this El Salvador, and other coffees from women producers, to raise money and awareness for cervical cancer prevention in their partnership with Grounds for Health.
It was a definitely a wintery night on Thursday as baristas and friends huddled together as MC Matt Eaton, co-director of San Diego Coffee Network, directed attention between the competitors, the judges, and the street tacos. The featured judges included last month's winner Margaret from West Bean, Madison from James Coffee Co., and Jescika from Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.
This competition was sponsored by Challenge Dairy, Solutions Espresso, and Coffee Printed. Let’s not forget the amazing new La Marzocco Strada espresso machine that Achilles was so willing to break in as baristas steamed and poured throughout the evening. Competitors weaved through five rounds that focused on hearts in 8 oz to-go cups (a fun little twist that made everyone chuckle), 12 oz rosettas, 6 oz tulips, a demi cup free pour, and the choice of any cup free pour for the final round.
A bracket of 48 baristas was carved out to three final challengers. Third place is Will from Hidden House Coffee all the way from Santa Ana, California. Hidden House Coffee prides themselves on their homey café where colorful bags of different coffees are served with hospitality. Second place barista, Katie from James Coffee Co., a thriving coffee roaster in Little Italy with a second location in Bankers Hill for those who love denim jackets, motorcyles, and a hip owl peeking at you from the bottom of your cappuccino mug. First place barista is a proud Kendra who rocked her blue-green hair miles from NOOK Coffee Bar, formerly known as Cafecito Organico, in Costa Mesa, California.
As winner, Kendra walked away with a cash prize and merchandise from Department of Brewology, a company that delivers both coffee knowledge and aesthetic to baristas all around the world. The night began and ended in good spirits as baristas, friends, and even local residents who simply intended to take their dogs out for an evening walk cheered with hot coffee and tacos – an excellent San Diegan combo.