There's a read worth your while up right now at CoffeeGeek, Mark Prince's living, breathing, mountainous edifice to home brew, coffee culture, and 90s-style message boards.
“A big, huge, gargantuan trend in barista circles is the latte art throwdown. You've probably heard of this thing – a bunch of baristas gather, be it at a party held during the SCAA, at regional barista competitions, at barista jams, etc, etc, and they kick $5 into the pot for a winner take all competition for who can pour the best latte art.
As far as advancing the actual art and skill of making great coffee, they don't contribute too much, except perhaps how to steam milk better and with better texture…There's nothing in these contests to challenge the barista to make a better cup of espresso. Nothing much in the competitions to foster an environment that seeks to understand the process of turning a whole roasted bean of coffee into a magical elixir of heavenly goodness in the cup.
There is a competition out there in various formats that does achieve this and has many of the community building aspects of the latte art throwdown, but it's not one that is nearly as common. It is called the Spro Down.”
MP goes on to claim credit and coverage for the original Spro Down, in a Zell-like bid for his rightful place in specialty coffee history. Are you aware of any event claiming the name “Spro Down” occurring prior to the one in Vancouver, British Columbia in early 2007? Let Sprudge know.