Those hearts and floral patterns on your latte aren't just accidental flourishes – they are carefully executed works of latte art that take years to master, and seasoned professionals have a crack at claiming the title of World Latte Art Champion. What does a latte art competition look like you ask? Well, baristas perform on stage, building three sets of drinks for a panel of judges who assess the barista's technical and artistic skills across dozens of criteria, including the drink's tastiness. The competition is serious business – the rules and regulations alone is a twenty-page manual.
The World Latte Art Competition, now in its ninth year, pits national champions from thirty different countries against each other in a battle of the beautiful. The World Latte Art Championship will take place this year in Melbourne, Australia at the Melbourne International Coffee Exposition in May.
In the United States, baristas have been competing in hyper-regional latte art throwdowns for well over a decade as well as at unsanctioned national events at industry tradeshows like CoffeeFest. While baristas in the US have many options to win cash money at latte art competitions none could compete for the coveted world title – until now.
That all changes this year. Baristas in the United States will now have an opportunity to compete on the world stage. Espresso machine manufacturer and top WLAC sponsor Dalla Corte was instrumental in getting the competition stateside.
“Dalla Corte has been the world sponsor for the latte art competition since its inception,” says United States Dalla Corte representative Skip Finley. He continues, “This is just the natural progression of that partnership with the barista community and SCAA to bring this competition to the US.”
Many believe a US Latte Art Competition is long overdue, and Finley agrees. “This was a long time coming and the general consensus so far has been overwhelmingly positive. It's been very rewarding to be a part of the team bringing this new opportunity to showcase our talented baristas on the world stage.”
The first national competition will be held in Seattle, Washington at the Specialty Coffee Association of America's annual trade-show, “The Event“, alongside the United States Barista Championship and Brewers Cup.
The US national championship “has been years in the making,” says Laura Lee, World Coffee Events Director of Business Development. The World Coffee Events organization is responsible for a portfolio of international coffee competitions and events, including the World Latte Art Competition. “The momentum and interest in the US has been building for years,” Lee continues, “and it is exciting to watch the plans come together.”
For the world stage, trophies built by Canadian craftsmen and espresso tamper specialist Reg Barber go to the top six latte artists, but glory isn't the only prize. The Grand Champion takes home a five thousand dollar espresso machine, the Dalla Corte Mini. The top six finalists also receive a whole bounty of gifts (tampers, cleaning products, coffee brewing devices, and ceramic ware) as well as an all-expense paid trip to Milan for a week-long summit at the Dalla Corte factory.
“The level of competition at the world's stage for latte art has got increasingly intense,” Lee explains. “When you bring together talents from all over the world – baristas with a sure hand and exquisite artistic expression – the talent is truly remarkable. The visual aspect of the competition makes it unique in audience participation. Everyone can vote for their favorite latte pour, just based on the final image of the cup.”
Previous World Latte Art Champions hailed from Australia (Jack Hanna, Scott Callaghan, Con Haralambopoulos), Japan (current champion Hisako Yoshikawa, Haruna Murayama), Russia (Victoria Kashirtseva), Belgium (Peter Hernou), Greece (Christos Loukakis), and Sweden (Johann Carlstrom). Sprudge.com will be covering this event live from Melbourne at the 2014 Melbourne International Coffee Festival, beginning Thursday, May 15th.
Photos courtesy World Coffee Events.