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Atomic Latte Art Throwdown

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The first Atomic Latte Art Throwdown for 2016, rocked our Kingsland HQ earlier this month. It saw baristas from all over Auckland and as far as the Waikato, competing for $1000 cash prize. One barista even lined up four hours early to secure his spot, having missed out on competing last year. Now that is dedication! Jordan Vandermade played MC, Black Dog, Rekorderlig and Six Barrell Soda kept us hydrated and Viet Sandwich put on the eats. It was a pretty sweet night!

Latte Art Throwdowns have taken off internationally in the last few years and Atomic prides itself on putting on a great show. Our Throwdowns are not only for competing baristas but for the public to enjoy too. They offer an accessible and entertaining entry into the world of coffee but still showcase the talent and hard work it takes to perfect a beautiful pour.

 This year we invited 32 baristas to take part but changed things up and chose the last seven competitors from a selection of wild card entries. Baristas had to wait patiently for the opportunity to be called on to throwdown at a moment’s notice. This new format created a palpable sense of anticipation as names were drawn from the pot. Some top baristas went head to head in the early rounds, making the judges’ job difficult right from the get go.

The judging panel this year consisted of two emerging barista talents and our own coffee guru Masako, Atomic Training Manager and Coffee Specialist. Louise from L‘Ouef made her judging debut after coming 2nd in the National Latte Art competition last year. And making up the trio was another newbie judge Wayner Stalen, who having moved to Auckland from Brazil, has trained under some of New Zealand’s finest baristas. Both new judges did a fantastic job on the night, and it was great to see talented baristas moving through the ranks and sharing their expertise with the wider coffee community.

The judges were looking for several different elements that when combined, produce a winning pour. High points are rewarded to patterns with sharp contrast between coffee and milk, creativity, level of difficulty and visual quality of the foam.

The first round pour was drawn by an audience member from a deck of rosettas, hearts, swan and tulips. Judging was tough from the start, with audible gasps and applause from the crowd as pours were presented to the panel. The swan caused the biggest stir, as many were challenged early on by the high degree of difficulty.

For the last three rounds it was barista’s choice. They could choose any pour but not produce the same as their previous round. We saw some amazing multi-tiered tulips and highly technical inverted and turning tulips. The crowd kept tension high, getting close to the action and showing amazing support throughout.

In the end it all came down to Hugo Lun and Izzy from The Block Café in Blockhouse Bay. The final round required each barista to pour a five tier tulip into a piccolo glass. The piccolo is only 90mls in volume so requires another level of skill again. Both baristas performed brilliantly and made it a hard call for the judges, but Izzy came out on top!

Thanks to all those who competed and everyone who came and showed their support. There was spilt milk, dodgy pours and shaky hands but great to see baristas of all levels taking part!

Hopefully we might see some familiar faces at our next Throwdown in Queenstown during the Winter Festival. If you or someone you know wants to enter, spread the word. Come join us on Tuesday 28th June at The World Bar in Queenstown. There’s another $1000 up for grab, so get practicing.

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