The first season of the Bay Area Coffee Community‘s Latte Art Series came to an eventful end last Thursday night in San Francisco. We've been covering the event all season, and for the final evening, we contracted some paid event coverage from our friend and colleague Michael “Panda” Fernandez. Mr. Fernandez attended this event in his capacity as event coordinator for Espresso Parts, who served as the official trophy sponsor for BACC. This is his unadulterated narrative of what exactly went down in The Bay.
Trading in my flannel for a Mac Dre t-shirt and some high tops, I landed at SFO with the express purpose of doing it up right at the BACC finals. First things first, I took a nice little ride on the BART to Coffee Bar's Mission District location, which was set to play host to the event later that evening. Coffee Bar SF is gorgeous! Seriously, super high ceilings, a really open layout, and floor to ceiling windows make for one of the nicest cafes in the Mission (in my honest opinion).
After checking out the café I was able to attend a special cupping that Mr. Espresso conducted before the event started. The focus of this cupping was pretty special, featuring a Burundi Mpenga that had been aged in a Cabernet wine barrel. I had high hopes for this coffee, because I had recently tasted a barrel aged coffee from Ceremony Coffee Roasters, and it was pretty bomb. We cupped four versions Mr. Espresso's barrel-aged Burundi, including a “control” roast that hadn't been aged. The other three cups were all aged similarly, for around 2 months in the barrel, but roasted at varying degrees. My personal favorite was the medium roasted sample. The coffee really took on notes from the wine barrel, but it wasn’t overwhelming and complemented the coffee nicely. What a treat!
Meanwhile, Mr. Harold McGovern was setting up a dope La Marzocco Strada for the competition. Harold is a major part of the BACC; he’s a founding member and always helps to set up the events. He’s also, on a personal note, one of the nicer folks in the specialty coffee community I’ve ever hung out with. Mr. McGovern is moving to New York City soon, which is clearly the Bay Area's loss, but NYC needs great baristas to help grow that scene, and Harold is going to fit right in. I also connected with Richard Sandlin of Fair Trade USA. (Ed. note: Mr. Sandlin is the infamous “muzungu on velo” from our Rwanda trip last summer.) Richard is a founder and lead coordinator for the BACC series, and he might be the hardest working coffee professional in the state of California. He’s also the person who contacted me at Espresso Parts to sponsor this series.
The café started to fill up pretty quickly as we approached first pour. I got a whiff of some magical tasty foods and followed my nose outside. That when I saw that they were serving up tacos! These were some of the best I’ve had; the taco scene in San Francisco is on another level from what I'm used to in Olympia. As a part of the $5 competition sign up, competitors were entitled to either a free beer or two free tacos. DOPE!
There was a who’s who of coffee folk at this event. Andrew Barnett and Rita Kaminsky, Joyce & Kyra from Baratza, Devorah Freuidger from Equator Coffees, Mr. Rip Van Wafels himself, and Jason Burton of The LAB in Kansas City (to name just a few).
Armed with ample Tecate and tacos, the throwdown started up, and I saw some of the best latte art I've ever seen at the BACC finals. There is a great pool of talent in the Bay Area barista community, and it really showed. Highlights included Che Garcia from Ritual pouring a ridiculously well-tiered tulip, and some experimental art that looked to be a T-Rex fighting a shark. No joke!
After a few hours of friendly ribbing, elbow throwing, and dope sauce latte art we had our overall winners. The victors got sweet swag from all the great sponsors, plus some super-special custom Espresso Parts tamper trophies made with Kino wood handles, brass bezel, and a stainless steel base. Each tamp was labeled for first, second, and third place, and the BACC logo was laser engraved on top, paired with a pistol grip designed to mimic the Bay Bridge. We had to outdo ourselves for the overall winners. How’s about gold, silver, and bronze plated tamps? Yes, I work for Espresso Parts, but you can't knock the hustle – these tamper prizes looked great.
So who took home the top three spots? In third place we had Josh Bonner (Stanza Coffee). Second was the ever so talented Harold McGovern (Coffee Bar). That leaves us with the number one latte artist in The Bay…Mr. Che Garcia, of Ritual Coffee. Che took home the coveted Golden Tamper, a UNIC home espresso machine, Baratza Vario grinder, admission to the Barista Guild of America‘s upcoming Camp Pull A Shot West, some cold, hard cash, and an upcoming featurette for Sprudge.com on the topic of his choosing.
After the prizes went out, we were treated with an exclusive look at the BACC Latte Art Series schedule for next season. This schedule is not yet ready for public consumption, but take my advice and get your pitchers ready, because Season Two is going to be even bigger and better. Make sure to check the official BACC website for more updates, and look for Che's feature on Sprudge in the coming weeks!
Stunning original photography by Zack Piánko for Sprudge.com. Take a look at the complete album of photos on our Facebook page.