My First Throwdown

Editor’s Note:
This post was set to be published ohhh, I don’t know… in January? But as fate would have it, my hard drive crashed and my laptop spend a cushy THREE WEEKS at the apple store getting fixed. It’s been a rough month, y’all. But hey, Bruce is back at it (yes, my laptop’s name IS Bruce Lee, thank you very much) and I’m currently drowning in a sea of half-finished writing projects.

Fortunately for us all, my barista babe Meg has written up a stunning piece about last month’s GVLTNT, which happened to be her first ever latte art throwdown! Nothing gives me greater joy than sharing my beloved coffee community with others (why else would I have started this blog?!) and experiencing this event through her eyes is such a treat. 

The timing of this post is quite perfect, all things considered. Tomorrow evening Summit Coffee is hosting their very first Thursday Night Throwdown (TNT) at their roastery and training center in Cornelius, NC. Expect food trucks, free beer, shaky barista hands and lots of coffee geekery. What more could you want on a Thursday night, really? The fun starts at 6’o’clock- see you there!

— — —

Written by Meg Skop
Photos by Alex Reynolds of Taylors Mill

Receiving an invite to Greenville Thursday Night Throwdown (GVLTNT) was a little like receiving an official Hogwarts letter- “Yer a coffee wizard, ‘Arry!”

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I’m a newb when it comes to “3rd wave” craft coffee. Specialty coffee. Whatever you prefer to call it. I’ve spent most of my barista career in Starbucks cafes, meaning that I’ve spent most of my barista career segregated from my local coffee community. Honestly, until I started working at Amelie’s French Bakery I was unaware that such tight-knit communities surrounding coffee even existed in my city.

So when I started exploring this world- a world of throwdowns, cuppings, and community involvement- I was in awe. It blew my mind to realize that I actually, unknowingly, played (and am currently playing) a (small) role within Charlotte’s coffee scene.

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When I heard about the January GVLTNT hosted by Ally Brazilian Coffee Merchants, I marked my planner immediately, determined to go. And when the fateful day came I boarded the 9 ¾ platform (a.k.a. Diana’s car) and nervously ate almonds the entire drive down to Greenville from Charlotte. I had no idea what to expect.

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Imagine walking into a throwdown with absolutely no prior knowledge of craft coffee. It would be a pretty weird sight to behold, you’d have to admit: people pouring milk into a cup with as much precision as they can muster while crowds of onlookers cheer them on. So much freaking out over what is really just milk and coffee. A throwdown is surreal to witness, even as a barista.

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The Ally Coffee headquarters was packed out with competitors and their friends. Everyone started to gather around the bar, inhaling the complimentary GB&D donuts (okay, maybe that was just me), ready to see the expertise each barista had to offer. When the competition began I tried to keep up with what the judges were asking of the competitors, but I found myself repeatedly distracted by the pouring techniques of each barista. Let me absorb all their skills, dear Barista Gods, especially that gnarly three-rosetta pour technique. Amen.

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With each passing round, the competition grew in difficulty as the judges asked for more complicated and specific challenges: a macchiato free pour, a rosetta cappucino, a 5-layer tulip in a 6-ounce cup, a triple rosetta in a Gibraltar glass… My eyes were glued to each barista as, one after another, they poured out their fate (sometimes under their legs).

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In between rounds Jonathon Sepulveda, one of the GVLTNT organizers, would shout out coffee trivia and give away t-shirts, coffee, and various Barista Magazine paraphernalia. I couldn’t believe the prizes given away to the top performers! Coffee siphons, copper Hario kettles, aeropresses… Like, whoa. As my mouth was hanging open in awe, Diana looked at me pointedly and simply said, “It pays to be good at your job.”

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It also pays to have a job that you can be so passionate about. A job that you’re so excited about that you congregate with other nerds in a warehouse over 100 miles away from home to learn more about one other and your trade. I’ve spent the past eight months at Amelie’s learning many things- coffee and cuisine related- and attending the GVLTNT made me realize that I can be involved in my coffee community.

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Being a barista has always been my favorite job because of the people I work with. Coffee brings together a variety of talented individuals who possess many different passions and skills. Working in coffee paid my bills through college, introduced me to some of the most brilliant people I have met, and has now opened the door to a community I never knew even existed. What an amazing industry. What a cool job.

I don’t know much but I do know this: I can’t wait to see what the Queen City coffee community has in store for me, and I can’t wait to go to more throwdowns.

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I'm an SCA-certified Instructor & Examiner, the Director of Coffee at Undercurrent Coffee and a huge nerd. Other interests include cuddling with my cats, exploring the Carolinas with my husband, binge-watching Netflix and binge-eating Nutella.

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