Nov 11, 2019
By Valery Larson
Across the country from New York to San Francisco, an event takes place that mixes art with the love of coffee, the Latte Art Throwdown. I had no idea such a thing existed, but it makes perfect sense, mixing coffee with art. Though I’m more of a tea drinker, I love to order a latte occasionally just to see what the barista will create in the way of the foamy design floating in my cup. There is even a school in San Francisco and other cities that teaches baristas that art form.
On October 24th in Sebastopol, Retrograde Roasters held their first Latte Art Throwdown at their current location, to a room packed with a colorful collection of ghosts and skeletons, an adorable Little Red Riding Hood, a vampire Captain America, a very short ‘old’ man being attacked by spiders and a bevy of other inventive costumes. Among the revelers, even Holly Go Lightly, made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the movie depiction of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, mingled, looking to try her hand at the latte art competition.
Before the main event could begin, there were tickets to raffle off to support GetchuSomeGear, a non-profit that collects coffee gear to supply marginalized or under-paid individuals in the coffee industry. Next, a large group of costumed contestants stood in front of the room, each one named as the onlookers clapped enthusiastically for their favorite entrant. The biggest applause went to the ‘old’ man being attacked by spiders (aka 9-year-old Mason, a very brave young lad. I’m deathly afraid of spiders even though I had a pet tarantula as a kid).
The brilliance of the event was put together by Retrogade’s manager, Angela Jackson, who’s relaxed country costume perfectly personified her warm and friendly mannerism. “I have loved coffee forever,” she told me. “My dad started me on sips of drip coffee when I was 3”.
When the main competition began, the lively crowd pushed towards the counter as Casey, one of the owners of the coffee shop, prepped the instruments of art. Lulu, as the MC, guided the contenders to their stations. Each group of three coffee artist focused on their task of creating hearts, rosettes and tulips as the evening progressed while the three judges looked away to assess each cup fairly. Glinda the good witch/barista (aka Danielle, who co-owns Retrograde Roasters with Casey) took the lead in many of the categories. It would have been tough to be one of the judges.
Danielle, Casey and their Retrograde family have a very visible love for this community and there are plans to make the Latte Art Throwdown a regular, yearly event to bring the coffee community together with the community at large. However, don’t wait a year to stop by to sip their amazing coffees and teas and taste their delectable pastries, organic sandwiches and sides. New friends and great coffee and tea are hands down a great reason to wake up in the morning and embrace whatever the day may bring.
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