If you have not found an oak leaf, heart or pair of smiling lips in your latte lately, the time has come to change up your daily cup – and get acquainted with That Barista Thing.

If you ask, ‘What’s a barista?’, well, have a look.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-ZX8MPQJiE[/youtube]

Baristas bring a bit of Banksy to the humane bean and an art to the daily grind with toothpicks, deft wrists and imagination alone.  Unlike the London street artist, they work their wonders on the smallest canvases imaginable and both their mediums and their art are purely temporary.

In Vancouver, they have transformed the culture of coffee on both sides of the counter by pouring a lot of love and a little art into every cup.

At That Barista Thing on Sunday, October 2, 2011 the promenade of the Vancouver Public Library, they put their art and heart on full display – before getting down to some serious competitions: The 3rd Vancouver International Latte Art Competition & Etching Competition.

How serious?  Artfully so.

You try crafting a latte so perfectly poured and artfully etched that it might be savoured without a single sip. Now imagine doing it onstage in front of judges with cameras tracking every moment of your maximum five minute phenomenon of finesse.  NOW add a few hundred people of all ages, some serious prize money and the best baristas in town into the mix.
Generously supported by Blenz, organized by Layla Osberg and driven by such a core culture of amazing volunteerism and professional pride, That Barista Thing was an eye opener.

I’ve never judged a cup of coffee without tasting it before.

Fortunately, at the judging table for the Etching Competition, I had some expert guidance from head judge Wayne Wright, Smart Mouth Cafe’s Mark Villella and ‘The Well Tempered Chocolatier’ Eagranie Yuh.  Wayne and Mark had been in their cups since morning, having already teamed with coffee connoisseur ‘vanfoodster’ Richard Wolak and ‘foodgirlfriday’ writer Anya Levyhk to crown Masahito Orito as the champion of the morning’s Free Pour Tournament alongside John Giannakos (2nd) and  Koji Kozuka(3rd place).

In the Etching Competition, the seven competitors combined their free pour skills with a variety of sticks, picks and swizzles to even further elevate the artistic potential lurking with any latte.

Together we wrestled with the finer points of symmetry, balance, definition, colour infusion, degrees of difficulty and creativity.

And then the art of the etch was revealed as the seven competitors took to the stage in sequence, each serving up a cup of not-to-be-consumed latte art in turn.  Truth be told, not a single cup failed to impress, filled to the brim with the type of passion that turns heads.  Bulls, dragons, squirrels, totems and bears with heart found full expression in the foam, as did a sucker-wielding Maggie Simpson, a glittering smile and a spot-on capture of barista Todd from That Barista Things promotional posters.

Finding the winning cup was a challenge well met. Ultimately, indie-artist Aki Tokuhara, who aptly teaches others the art of the etch, captured the Gold with her ode to autumn, with Millicent Ng and Martin Grancic capturing the Silver and Bronze respectively.

 

 

 

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