The Green Country Throwdown Series
By Tyler Duncan, Topeca Coffee I’ve come to the realization that community is of the utmost importance to me. And it would seem that community is important to lots of other people, too. Whether it’s people who love to read starting book clubs, or people who love to run and kick balls starting an indoor soccer league, people are inclined towards community.
Within the industry I work, there are many mini-communities. Each has a common denominator at its heart, with a diverse group of people to back it up. We have people in our industry from different nationalities, people with different worldviews, and people who drink the liquid gold differently. We have, however, one love under the banner of coffee. Under this one banner stands a group of individuals—a large group, mind you—who work tirelessly to perfect their craft and innovate their field. There are pockets of these people everywhere. Deep within the catacombs of coffee are groups who are dedicated solely to challenge each other to be better.
Brewer’s competitions challenge each contestant’s understanding of and ability to manipulate the rules that govern coffee extraction. They employ varying amounts of pressure, different coffee-to-water ratios, and different amounts of turbulence. Coffee tasters championships are aimed at bettering our ability to detect differences in very similar coffees. There are also competitions that are aimed at the holistic experience of espresso, milk-based drinks, signature beverages, and service. All of these are intended to further an individual’s abilities, and to further the innovation of our industry.
Then there is the latte art throwdown. These throwdowns are the bread and butter for many baristas. Even for people who don’t compete, or for those who aren’t that great but do it anyway (who’s in my choir here?), latte art throwdowns can be tremendous fun. During these events, people are pitted against each other to see who can pour the best of three separate designs: the heart, the tulip, and the Rosetta. Contestants are then judged on things like symmetry, milk texture, contrast, complexity of design, and whether or not they spill the sucker on the way to the judge’s table. Renowned baristas and industry neophytes alike are at the mercy of the judges, so it’s really anyone’s game. This is the great leveler: the latte art throwdown. Bringing a group of like-minded-yet-super-diverse people together in an effort to strengthen their abilities, their immediate communities, and the overall community that is our coffee industry.
When the general public is invited into this realm of coffeedom, they are invited to join in our passion. We invite them to partner with us in our efforts to build into ideas like sustainability, or social justice, or ethical sourcing. They even have the opportunity to learn how things work, why they do, and how we operate the way we do to produce such great tasting drinks. If the buck stops with the barista, then all the work from seed-to-cup means a hill of beans (pun almost intended). Until the consumer of that wonderful drink is aware of what we are also aware of, then they won’t buy into our efforts for improving the lives of people around the world. As baristas, we have an obligation to not only serve great drinks, to not only educate our customers, but to invite them into our community. Without their help, our efforts and our jobs are next to senseless.
Coffee shouldn’t just taste good; it’s not even enough that it feels good. Coffee should be good. Drinking a cup of coffee is never a neutral act; it is never something you participate in alone, even if it may seem so. Someone else has personally made this pleasure possible for you at every step of the way, beginning far off in another part of the globe like Africa or in Indonesia, in South America or India. Then, the roaster takes up the baton and continues the coffee process, taking painstaking measures to call forth flavor notes out of the bean that honor the soil and the hard work from which it came.
This is the basis of the Green Country Throwdown series—that people can be brought together under one purpose, the idea that there can be such great unity amidst such wide-spanning diversity, and that people can serve a greater good by doing so.
So that brings us to this series. Each month for twelve months we will have a throwdown and event more geared toward the public. The series page can be found here, and will be updated with pictures, event times and locations, and winners of each night. If pumpkin carving contests, date dashes, white elephant parties on a mass scale, chili cook-offs, float trip/block parties sound like your thing, then you may just be interested in attending!
Lastly, I need to shout out to our awesome sponsors who helped to make this whole series possible. La Marzocco has sent us lots of swag to hand out, Espresso Parts has sent us 12 Yamapots and tons of swag to boot; Baratza has sent us three grinders, Chemex has sent us swag and twelve 8-cup brewers, and UNIC is giving us tons of swag on top of 10 tampers and a Grand Prize of an espresso machine, grinder and tamper. There are more sponsors to come throughout the series, but for now, I’d like to thank these companies for their tremendous support of establishing a higher quality community of coffee professionals and consumers in our area.
Come alongside us as we build community with food, friendly competition, and coffee in Green Country!