Dining With Denise Neil

Latte art champion crowned at Reverie’s Saturday Smackdown (+video)

I have a new respect for latte artists.

On Saturday night, I was one of three judges at Reverie Coffee Roasters latte art competition. It featured 36 baristas from coffee shops all over the region competing against each other.

The competition was set up tournament style, and two latte artists at a time would compete head-to-head creating designs on top of their coffee using steamed milk as their tool. The way they poured the milk in determined whether a heart shape, a Rosetta or a fern appeared on the top. The competitors included baristas from Hutchinson, Garden City, Kansas City and McPherson, and the local shops represented included R Coffeehouse and Espresso To Go Go.

I looked at latte after latte after latte after latte. The judges would choose which of the two we preferred by pointing on the count of three, and it was interesting to see how often some of the better artists would lose control of their drinks. Many were so nervous, their hands were shaking as they poured.

Once each turn was over, Reverie employees would dump the drinks into to-go cups and pass them out to the very large crowd of spectators. Two and a half hours later, we named a winner. Ian Walla, who works at PT’s at the Crossroads in Kansas City, edged out Tom Murillo, who works at Reverie. Murillo had been strong throughout the competition but on the last pour, he accidentally tipped his cup, and his design fell apart.

Walla won the $5 entry fees of all 36 competitors plus tips, a medal and bragging rights.

Watch the video I made out of the event, which includes lots of pretty lattes plus the exciting final round between Walla and Murillo.