Though they won’t last in a museum, this art is safe for consumption.
Using microfoam milk as a paintbrush, and a bed of espresso as its canvas, the first Barista Throwdown in REO Town saw Traves Charles of Strange Matter take the crown for best latte artist in Lansing out of 14 barista contestants.
Tyler Crosthwaite, assistant manager of Blue Owl Coffee, said this competition shows off the best of Lansing’s coffee scene.
“We have been open a year and a half. We’ve done everything we can think to show our love and passion for coffee, besides have an actual coffee oriented event,” said Crosthwaite. “To be able to bring all these coffee people into our space is an absolute pleasure.”
The amount of sponsorship and support from the local coffee industry for this event is humbling, said Crosthwaite.
Sponsors included coffee roasting companies like Midland’s Creation Coffee, Ann Arbor’s Mighty Good, Lansing’s Craft and Mason and Detroit’s Anthology. Ionia dairy company Mooville donated 8 gallons of milk for the competition.
“They have been awesome enough to donate,” said Crosthwaite. “Whatever these roasters were able to donate is incredibly generous.”
Contestant Barista at Old Town’s Bloom Coffee Landon Dysart brought his own 12 and 20 oz. milk steamer cups to the competition.
“I use these everyday so I know the weights of them. It may seem obsessive, but that’s why I brought them. It’s a comfort type thing,” said Dysart.
Though the competition is good fun, Dysart said it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. “The coffee is more important. Latte art is just like plating for a chef,” said Dysart. “It shows care and love is put into the drink. I’m here for a good time, not because my latte art is the greatest ever.”
Surprising someone with latte art is a good way to make a cup of coffee more than the sum of its parts, said Dysart. “You don't order it and not everyone does it, but it can change someone’s opinion of the coffee, like ‘Wow if it’s that beautiful, it must taste really good.’”
Events like this help unify Lansing’s barista and coffee community, said Crosthwaite.
“We are all tight. We talk all the time and we are very open to each other,” said Crosthwaite. “There’s no competition and everyone is super passionate about what they do.”