Conscious Party: Thursday Night Throwdown

COFFEE SPORTS: Baristas vie in a Thursday Night Throwdown latte art competition at Vortex Doughnuts. The next TNT takes place Feb. 8 and benefits the Tranzmission Prison Project. Photo by Lyle Mitchell

WHAT: A barista latte art competition to benefit Tranzmission Prison Project

WHEN: Thursday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Vortex Doughnuts, 32 Banks Ave.

WHY: With a name that sounds lifted from professional wrestling while highlighting a slightly different skill set, Thursday Night Throwdowns have become popular gatherings for those in the caffeinated beverage industry and beyond.

“It’s an opportunity for people to get together and have a party and practice latte art skills,” says Vortex Doughnuts barista Ronika McClain. “It kind of feels like coffee sports.”

Organized by McClain and fellow Vortex barista Jordan Wilkie, the latest TNT takes place at their job site on Thursday, Feb. 8. Signups start at 7 p.m. with a cut-off at 20 or 30 entrants. The competition begins at 7:30 p.m. and follows a bracket-style format in which two people face off at a time.

Working with a latte or cappuccino, the coffee athletes do their best with shots and steamed milk  — occasionally pouring into a random vessel on the bar — then set down the drinks. (A projector will be set up so attendees may see what’s going on.) A trio of judges then look at the results, count to three and point to the one they think is the best. The winner moves on to the next round, and the face-offs continue until only one barista remains.

“People cheer and yell,” McClain says. “It’s like being at a basketball game. People get really into it and sometimes people who are pouring are superserious about it.”

Free food and beer will be provided, and there is no cost to attend. A $5 buy-in for each competitor will go to help Tranzmission Prison Project with its monthlong Gay Romance fund drive, as will donations and money from a raffle for merchandise donated by OWL Bakery, High Five Coffee, Summit Coffee Co. and Trade and Lore Coffee. The volunteer-run organization supports LGBTQIA inmates nationwide by mailing them books and resources and is a cause about which McClain is personally passionate.

“I care about the well-being of trans and queer people generally, but also those who are incarcerated who may not have access to resources or literature,” she says. “I think it’s a worthwhile cause to help out those across the country who are feeling isolated because they’re incarcerated.”

Thursday Night Throwdown takes place Thursday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m. at Vortex Doughnuts. Free to attend. $5 buy-in for competitors. avl.mx/4lv

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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