Baristas near and far converged at Drip Café late last week for the area's first "Latte Art Throwdown." All were hoping to win bragging rights and the $160 pot but only one could be the winner.
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Using a coffee canvas, 16 baristas poured their hearts and souls out, each aiming for a small but drinkable masterpiece last Friday night at Drip Café’s first “Latte Art Throwdown.”
“I am ecstatic with how it turned out,” said the café’s owner, Greg Vogeley. “I’ve seen this sort of thing done successfully in larger cities but I wasn’t sure how it go. But, this was just what I was hoping for.”
Vogeley doesn’t take all the credit for the event, though. It came about thanks to the camaraderie shared by Vogeley and two fellow coffee shop owners: Chris Thompson of Philter in Kennett Square and Ben Cordova of LOMA in Wilmington. Vogeley said that the men have a shared love of coffee and a healthy respect for each other’s business that makes collaboration easy.
“I’m sure we share customers,” Vogeley said. “But, we feel like we’re far enough away from one another that it shouldn’t keep us from being friends or sharing ideas with one another. It’s about a coffee community.”
Even the spectators, most of them seemingly passionate coffee drinkers, seemed to latch onto the idea of a local coffee community.
“It was so cool to see everyone so excited about coffee,” said Wilmington resident Shoshana Kohn, who also said the event made her miss her own days as a barista.
The competition was designed like March Madness brackets. In pairs, the 16 baristas faced one another in head-to-head competition with the winner moving on to the next round.
The creativity centered on a lot of hearts, Rosetta fern leaves and combinations of the two. Twice, the bracket winners drew audible gasps and groans as spectators and baristas both were shocked when more intricate work was overlooked for simple and sweet.
“We didn’t give the judges a lot of parameters,” Vogeley said. “It was completely up to them and what they liked.”
In the end, it was a 15-year coffee-pouring veteran who walked away with the pot and the bragging rights. Tommy Mergenthaler works as the general manager at Terrain at Styers in Glen Mills, Pa., and said that the secret to his success just came down to the old-fashioned, day-to-day practice he gets a work.
“There were a lot of amazing baristas here,” Mergenthaler said. “I didn’t expect to win at all.”
He also said that he was taking more than just his $160 winnings back to Glen Mills. He wants to host a throwdown there. Feedback like that makes Vogeley feel like a winner as well. Two more throwdowns were already planned for Philter and LOMA, but the hope was that the event would spread to more and more coffee shops.
“I know I keep saying it but I really do mean it. These events broaden and strengthen the coffee community,” Vogeley said. “I can’t wait to see where this goes.”