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.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

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

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.