On Thursday, July 5, 2018, we hosted an All-Vegan & Plant-Based Beverage Latte Art Throwdown during First Thursdays in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. This was the first throwdown we hosted using all non-dairy milks, and it was a blast! Pacific Foods and the Oregon Coffee Board were our titles sponsors, and Pacific provided all Barista Series milks for the competition. We kicked off the event by hosting the Oregon Coffee Board's 531 Club, a meeting of industry professionals and coffee enthusiasts around Portland.
32 baristas signed up to compete online in advance. We had a judging panel of 3 industry professionals who were instructed to judge based on the lattes' visual quality of foam, contrast, balance, creativity, and mastery/difficulty. Competitors had 6 Barista Series plant-based beverages (alternative milks) available to them, including: Almond, Coconut, Hemp, Oat, Rice & Soy. We laid out the throwdown rounds as follows:
- Round 1 (32 baristas): Barista’s Choice of the above options, attempting to pair competitors using like milks
- Round 2 (16 baristas): All Barista Series Oat
- Round 3 (8 baristas): All Barista Series Rice
- Round 4 (4 baristas): Judges #1 & #2 draw from hat of 6 options
- Runoff for 3rd-4th place (2 baristas): Judge will draw from hat of remaining 4 options
- Round 5 (final 2 baristas): 3rd & 4th place baristas confer to choose the milk (final round was SOY)
In addition to signing up barista competitors, we also took online signups of 60 "Latte Drinkers" - mostly our customers and friends - who wanted to drink a free competition latte. At Latte Art Throwdowns we have been to in the past, we often see a very unfortunate amount of waste - with competition lattes usually poured down the drain after they are done being judged. We wanted to invite people who may have never seen a throwdown before to partake in these lattes and try a plant-based beverage, for free, instead of wasting a perfectly excellent latte. For this reason, with this being an evening event, we pulled all decaf espresso shots, using our own Swiss-Water Processed Brazil Decaf coffee. We had two Nossa Familia baristas keeping the coffees dialed in properly throughout the competition to ensure proper extraction and flavor. The competitors then competed in single-elimination, head-to-head matches, with the judges' pick advancing to the subsequent rounds.