Late Night Latte Throwdown

By Vivian Herzog / Photography By Jill Melton | January 15, 2016
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Tyler Dougherty of Barista Parlor and Eric Bowers of The Well get down to it (shirtless) for the final round.

On a cold Wednesday night in January, the trendy members of Nashville’s burgeoning barista scene put on their game faces, rolled up their skinny jeans, and pushed their designer glasses farther up their noses. Coffee was brewed, milk was plentiful, and the audience crammed inside Revelator Coffee in Hillsboro Village was ready for a throw-down in honor of Edible Nashville's new January/February issue.  

We all know (and probably underappreciate) the artistry that we’re talking about here. Although the feathery heart shape that floats atop your $6 drink may elicit the occasional small smile of acknowledgement, there is an entire subculture present in this city that prides itself on being able to present its customers with the most elaborate works of latte craftsmanship. Eager to learn more about the technicalities of the trade, Edible Nashville teamed up with Revelator Coffee and invited nine of the most steady-handed froth fanatics from coffee shops around town to put their ample skills to the test.

Complete with an official bracket and three keen-eyed judges--Cheasea Kallman of Revelator, Lee Sill of Steadfast, and Jill Melton, Edible editor (who knows squat about latte art) the baristas embarked on a friendly night of fierce competition. The process, unlike the skills required to create the subtle masterpieces, was simple. Two baristas would make their lattes, topped with feats of art ranging from clean and simple to intricate and complex, and place them in front of our impartial judges. The judges evaluated on predetermined components common to Barista judging: 

  • Balance and Symmetry (dividing lines are even and show no hesitation)
  • Harmony (between the size of the cup and the size and position of the design)
  • Clarity of Design (contrast)
  • Quality of Milk Texture (yes, it takes a lot of practice to perfectly texture milk)

The audience had the choice to crane their necks to catch a glimpse of the beverages being judged at the bar or merely glance up and look to Revelator’s wall, where the entire judging process was being projected for easy-viewing. After a few minutes of suspenseful deliberation, the judges would point to the winning drink on the count of three. Despite being mostly unanimous, the decisions were tough as every drink placed in front of the panel of judges was admirable.

The night passed with many celebratory cheers from victors and a few defeated smiles, but when the final round arrived everyone in attendance gathered around to cheer on the final two competitors, who to the glee of the crowd, shed their shirts and poured bare chested. The face off was hard fought between Tyler Dougherty of Barista Parlor and Eric Bowers of The Well, and both men presented the judges with amazing lattes. In the end, Tyler Dougherty and Barista Parlor came out on top.

Not only was the night filled with delicious provisions courtesy of Avo, The Row, Goozy, and Fat Bottom Brewery, but also with camaraderie, hard-fought competition, and a whole lot of learning. Nashville baristas are making names for themselves and quickly dispelling the stereotypical image of baristas as mere hipsters sporting manicured beards and vintage clothing. Music City’s coffee connoisseurs are instead beginning to view the purveyors of their morning brews as greatly skilled and devoted artisans. And hey, who’s got anything against a well-manicured beard?

Photo 1: Winner Tyler Dougherty expertly creates a flawless latte with his unmatched precision.
Photo 2: Maggie Boyd of Humphrey Street showcases a beautiful and traditional latte.
Photo 3: The audience gets front seat views of the judging process thanks to a projection onto Revelator's wall.
Photo 4: The design on this latte requires perfectly foamy milk and a steady hand.
Photo 1: Jamie Cunningham of Steadfast Coffee concentrates on his art.
Photo 2: The panel of judges analyzes two evenly matched lattes.
Photo 3: The Edible community filled Revelator Coffee's Hillsboro Village locale to the brim.
Photo 4: The night concluded with our judges throwing down with their own latte skills! Can you guess the work of our trusty editor? (Hint: it's the one that slightly resembles Mozambique.)
Article from Edible Nashville at http://ediblenashville.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/late-night-latte-throwdown
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