Make us your home page

Barista Jam and Latte Art Throwdown in Tampa draws creative coffee artists


The action went from 12-ounce lattes to 7-ounce cappuccinos to 3-ounce macchiatos, the dwindling canvas ever harder to "paint" with a palette of foamed milk and espresso. Nonetheless, the first Tampa Bay Barista Jam and Latte Art Throwdown went off without a hitch last week at the Oxford Exchange, aided and abetted by a serious dose of caffeine. At least 100 spectators crowded around the Buddy Brew counter in Tampa's hottest new restaurant to watch more than two dozen baristas compete, freehand pouring hearts and rosettas. From hometown Buddy Brew and Kahwa to Axum in Winter Garden and Orlando-based Barnie's Coffee & Tea Company, the assembled competitors showed just how far coffee culture has come in the Tampa Bay area in recent years.

"We're looking for three things," said Anthony Rue, owner of Volta in Gainesville, a judge of the evening's event and regular judge at events such as the World Barista Competition in Colombia. "We're evaluating gloss, symmetry and contrast."

Joining Rue at the judging table were Dean Hurst, director of spirits for Bern's and SideBern's, and Rich Mullins, a reporter at the Tampa Tribune. They sipped coffee-infused beers from 7venth Sun Brewing in Dunedin to ready their palates as the competition got under way.

"Usually baristas learn first how to pour a heart, then with a concentric design, and extending that into a rosetta and a double rosetta. I've seen a guy do seven rosettas," said Neal Faul, a barista at Axum.

Competing at the Oxford Exchange in pairs, each contestant steamed milk, tapping the metal pitcher gently to settle big bubbles, then pouring into the finished espresso with flicks of the wrist to achieve the desired pattern or design and walking the finished drink over to the judges. On the count of three, the judging panel pointed at the better-made drink, eliminating the loser and sending the victor on to a next round.

Ty Beddingfield, who has overseen coffee brewing at Buddy Brew for two years, served as master of ceremonies, pairing up heats from all over the state in an ever-dwindling number of competitors. In the end, in a cappuccino round, Mandy Spirito of Buddy Brew took top honors in a flurry of high fives with her barista brethren.

"She's always been an artsy kid," said proud father Tom Spirito. "We have a good cappuccino machine at home. She's there practicing. You should see the coffees she's doing for our friends."

Laura Reiley can be reached at or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.

Barista Jam and Latte Art Throwdown in Tampa draws creative coffee artists 02/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 2:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Fast Times at Ridgemont High turns 35: Learn it. Know it. Live it


    Fast Times at Ridgemont High not only is the perfect time capsule of pop culture in the early ‘80s - all it needed was some tasty waves and cool buds = it’s also high art. How so? Leave it to me. I'm the full hot orator today. Did you know the cast actually featured three future Academy Award …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 23: Of tiny towns, wonderful naps and dreamlike ice cream bars


    Day 23: Murias de Rechivaldo to Foncebadon: 20.8 km, 6 hours. Total for Days 1-23 = 541 km (336 miles)

  3. Forgotten '80s classic: The Kinks' 'The Road'


    While the '70s has classic songs about rock 'n' roll on the road like Jackson Browne's The Load-Out and Bob Seger's Turn The Page, the '80s also lamented about the long tours including songs that might have escaped your attention like the Kinks and their travel song simply titled The Road.

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for July 28


    Lady Antebellum: The Grammy-winning trio take the stage with openers Kelsea Ballerini and Brett Young. 7 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $26.75-$60.

    LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 02:  (L-R) Recording artists Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum perform during the 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on April 2, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
  5. Opera legend Sherrill Milnes keeps a quieter profile in Palm Harbor


    TARPON SPRINGS — The soprano sang an aria from The Marriage of Figaro about lost love, but she could have been asking the devil not to steal her soul. A couple dozen opera fans watched, including a silver-haired man with leonine features leaning back in his chair.

    American operatic baritone Sherrill Milnes, right, critiques a performance by Mariana Carnovali, of Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the Opera Voice competition on Monday  at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times