In pursuit of the perfect cup

LOVELY LATTES: The Latte Art Throwdown was the most anticipated event at the recent Southeastern Barista Jam. Photo by Elizabeth Reynolds McGuire
LOVELY LATTES: The Latte Art Throwdown was the most anticipated event at the recent Southeastern Barista Jam. Photo by Elizabeth Reynolds McGuire

Whether you experiment with brewing styles and create latte art or simply love the smooth, strong taste of an espresso, a barista jam is something to add to your coffee lover’s bucket list. These events offer a chance for people who work in the coffee industry to mingle, gain more knowledge about coffee and share their love for the craft. But homebrewers and regular coffee lovers will also find the passion and fun of a barista jam exciting.

On Saturday, May 31, Aesthetic Coffee brought that energy to Asheville by hosting the Southeastern Barista Jam at the Counter Culture Training Center. The free event brought baristas and others from the coffee industry to Asheville from as far away as Raleigh and Knoxville, Tenn. Sarah Winkler, a barista at Waking Life Espresso in West Asheville, remarks that, in general, at these jams, “It’s cool to get everyone’s different takes on what makes a good cup of coffee … and it’s cool to meet new people.”

Aesthetic Coffee owner Dylan Jung expressed excitement that everyone at his recent event “had the chance to meet a lot of new faces from our regional specialty coffee community.

“Andrew [Ferguson] from Torch Coffee Roasters came all the way from Raleigh, our friends from Old City Java came from Knoxville, others from Greenville, S.C., and still others from all over,” Jung continues. “So basically, people made long drives just to come and hang out with fellow baristas and coffee professionals.”

“The barista jam in Asheville is unique in that, while I’ve seen many company-specific barista jams, this was put on and promoted by baristas, the young professionals who serve coffee out every day,” says Ferguson. A number of baristas from Asheville coffee shops and cafés were also present, in addition to many local coffee connoisseurs — both amateur and professional.

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The cozy downtown space was the perfect setting for the gathering. A long, tall wooden table in the middle of the room was covered with a diverse array of brewing equipment, including a variety of pour-over devices and coffees from different roasters, while a selection of espresso machines was displayed along the walls. It was easy to strike up a conversation with someone standing near the espresso machines and suddenly find the perfect cup of espresso in your hand — a perk of being surrounded by skilled baristas.

barista jam latte art throw down

One of the most popular events was the Cup Tasters Challenge, a contest designed to test your coffee taste buds. However, the highlight of the evening — the Latte Art Throwdown — came late in the jam. In this last event of the evening, participants went head-to-head in a battle to create the most beautiful and distinctive piece of latte art. The talent was extraordinary, including, but not limited to, lattes displaying leaves and swans. First place in the competition went to Tanner Morita of Not Just Coffee in Charlotte.

The Southeastern Barista Jam was a great evening for anyone who loves java. It was the perfect blend of people who take their coffee seriously but do not take life too seriously, creating coffee community — ready to share tips and techniques with each other, all in pursuit of the perfect cup of coffee.

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About Elizabeth Reynolds McGuire
Liz drinks, photographs, and writes about coffee, promoting the Swedish idea of fika and checking out local coffee shops in Asheville, while dreaming of making a world tour of cafes and coffee farms. Contact her at thefikagirl@gmail.com or visit her blog at www.belovelive.com."

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