Baristas perform the feats of coffee | Arts & Culture
With coffee stands on almost every corner, you’d think Spokane was a coffee kind of town, but a group of regional baristas disagree. Hopping from one coffee shop to another, the Thursday Night Throwdown, brings baristas together to pour their best from the intricate details of latte art, to the fine science of Aeropress. Their competitions help brew the best coffee they can.
A coffee educator at Indaba Coffee, Aaron Monheim, says most people have never had great coffee. If you’ve never had a real macchiato, you’ll learn it’s smaller than you think. Depending on the coffee beans, it’s nutty, sweet with a touch a cream, but sour. That lack of coffee knowledge is why Monheim says Spokane isn’t a coffee town.
“If you wanted to know what Seattle is like in the mid 90s, you’d come to Spokane. It’s slowly changing. There’s a lot of great companies coming here now. We’re really exciting with how much it’s progressed in the past two years. We have shops like Indaba and Madeleines and Coeur Coffees [soon to open on June 12th]. There’s lot of high end coffee shops that are starting to move in and take the limelight. It’s not completely a coffee town yet, but we’re trying to change that.”
The throwdowns started almost two years ago on the East Coast. Last July, the competitions came to Seattle. Now they’re in Eastern Washington. Winners don’t move on to another competition. Whoever wins one month have to regain their title the second month.
Monheim says the throwdown is less about the competition and more about the communion of coffee culture.
“There’s camaraderie between baristas. They’re generally loyal individuals, more loyal to each other than the companies they work for,” Monheim said.
Baristas from all over the region came to West Central’s Indaba Coffee on Thursday night for the throwdown. Men with finely trimmed beards and fashioned plaid drove in from Coeur d’Alene, Sandpoint and even Seattle and Richland.
One of the newest competitors to the coffee industry, Zach Case with Barracuda Coffee in Richland says he’s only been a barista for four months and is already competing.
“Just watching what they’re doing gives you ideas on what you can pour in customer’s cups. Anything I can glean for sure,” Case said. “Simple is better when it comes to competition pours.”
Barracuda Coffee is on the commuting route for Hanford which helps business. Case says they’re one of the few coffee shops in town other than Starbucks. It’s tough, but growing.
The winner of Thursday Throwdown’s Latte Art contest hailed from Coeur d’Alene. Ian Nelson is a barista at Java on Sherman. He also won best facial hair contest. His sideburns were trimmed to resemble a set of stairs. The winner of the Aeropress contest wasn’t a barista at all. He’s an independent, but also the creative director of Thursday Night Throwdown Inland Northwest.
There was also a best hipster contest, but no winners were declared.
The next Thursday Night Throwdown will be held at Doma Coffee in Post Falls. The date hasn’t been assigned yet, but you can visit the organization's blog online at #TNTINW, which is also the hashtag used on Twitter, to find out the exact date in the next few weeks.
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