Do you have what it takes to be a judge of latte art? It takes more than a love of coffee and an eye for whimsical design.
Last Friday, Kate Gilmore of About the Coffee, Kate Blackman of Parisi Artisan Coffee and I judged a Latte Art competition at The Roasterie Factory Cafe as a kickoff for the Spring 2015 Caffeine Crawl in Kansas City. (Read my recap of Tour Route 4.) What criteria is involved with judging latte art? I found out minutes before the head-to-head competition began among two-dozen entrants.
Blackman and Gilmore explained what factors to observe and assess.
• Position and proportion – Is the design centered in the cup and proportional to surface area?
• Balance and symmetry – Is the design balanced and symmetrical?
• Contrast and definition – Does the design’s milky whiteness adequately contrast with the coffee? Are the edges defined or washed out?
• Degree of difficulty and execution – How difficult is the design? Is the design executed well?
• Overall (cup fullness, milk texture) – Account for fullness (too much or little), texture (frothy, bubbly, well-blended), etc.
Latte art is not artistic whimsy. It demonstrates technical expertise and creativity to make both a free-pour latte and art, handle the vessel (no spills or overflow!), and nail down finer points that never occurred to me. In fact, the World Latte Art Championship’s established rules and regulations fill a 22-pg. document. I had no idea about the seriousness of such competitions at the time.
I buckled down next to Blackman and Gilmore. We made our best judgement based on the outlined criteria as two cups of latte at a time arrived before us. The votes were mostly universal in early rounds. Split decisions resulted as the competition heated up. We judged multiple rounds as winners advanced. Spectators vied to consume the winning and losing lattes after judging was completed. Gradually, a few competitors advanced to the semi-final and final round. Who won?
Not surprisingly, Simeon Bricker took top honors. He’s a green bean buyer, quality control expert and master roaster aka Professor Bean at The Roasterie. He also earned second place in the 2015 U.S. Latte Art Championship and won the 2014 U.S. Latte Art Championship. By the way, he’s headed to Gothenburg, Sweden in June 2015 to compete in the 2015 World Latte Art Championship. Read more about Bricker here.
Do you have what it takes to judge latte art? Can you spot the winner from some of the entries posted below?
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