Twenty two baristas and coffee enthusiasts ventured to San Juan Bautista on July 23, pouring milk into espresso in beautiful designs in hopes of being crowned the best latte artist.
Vertigo Coffee, named after the renowned Alfred Hitchcock film that featured some scenes shot in San Juan, held its first ever latte art competition Thursday night. The “throwdown” drew competitors from all over the Bay Area: San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, and Santa Cruz, among others. Many local residents of San Juan and Hollister came to witness the competition as well, enjoying Vertigo’s new patio area and the wood fire oven pizzas offered during the tournament. The coffee shop has been in its current location for five years, though owners Dmitri and Kitty Fridman have sold coffee beans since 2009.
Hollister resident Evan Morris, a 23-year-old barista at Vertigo, wanted to bring more coffee culture to the area through the competition. “We don’t have a lot of coffee culture in the county, so we wanted to bring people over here and show them how great we are,” he said.
In the latte art throwdown, competitors faced off in pairs, pouring milk into cups of espresso in patterns that coffee enthusiasts call tulip stacks, hearts, and rosettas. The three judges, Sam Fabila, Alex Rivera, and Rick Nunez then judged the latte art based on four qualities: contrast, symmetry, the difficulty of the pour (based off of the cup’s size), and overall aesthetic.
In the end, Brittany Huff took first place. A barista at Bellano Coffee in Santa Clara, Vertigo’s latte art throwdown marks her first ever victory.
“This is my second competition. I got knocked out in my first round at Bellano and Chromatic’s joint competition,” Huff says. “So winning tonight was really cool.”
Huff only recently learned how to do latte art. “I got trained in how to steam milk earlier this year, and then I just watched a lot of Instagram videos and other baristas," she said."It was a lot of observational learning."
Morris said he hopes to hold more latte art competitions in the future. “Things were a little sketchy and chaotic during the throwdown, but it was all good and fun in the end,” he said.