By Garret Smith. Photos by Ellie Alonzo.

Before your coffee can even cool, the throw-down is going down.


Three rounds, two baristas, one design – and it all comes down to a single pour. Who will prove the best?


Last Tuesday at Cultivar Coffee, baristas from Denton and the DFW area came together for a competition to see who can create the best latte art. Any proceeds and donations towards the event went to the Coffee Quality Institute – an organization that promotes disease prevention in coffee cultivation – and towards helping promote the education of coffee farmers’ children.

Every round is centered on a single design, and two baristas compete at a time to see who can impress the judges more with their interpretation. A tulip, a heart, and a rosetta – these are their prompts. Balance, contrast, symmetry – these are the standards. Really, though – it all comes down to making something prettier than the next guy.


A couple taps on the table for luck, and then the pour.

Overall, the rounds go down with the rapid, heart-fluttering energy of an espresso shot – over and done before the brew even hits your tongue. Even with the serious precision and focus  that comes with coffee-culture, we all have a good time, and plenty of laughs. Everyone leans in to see the art in action – an intimate group, warm as a carafe of cappuccino.


They pour so effortlessly, yet their fluidity comes with practice that even the uninitiated eye can detect. Some go with a single, continuous pour, like a contour; others, a staccato, staggered drip. Each round holds its variations of the design. Tulips bloom in all forms, and noobies loom just behind the eclipse of a coffee-pouring virtuoso – everyone showcases amazing amounts of cultivated talent.


You’d think, with such simple prompts, that there couldn’t be much room for creativity, or style. Then again, anyone who hasn’t experienced such a competition would probably doubt the aesthetic power that a coffee-based canvas might hold. Yet some tulips are leafy, and others more circular and tiered. Some hearts rounded, others curved and fluid. It’s impossible to describe the subtle variations, yet these little details are the essence of the art. The dividing line that separates a great pour from a decent pour is as fine and subtle as the notes of flavor that create a delicious cup of coffee.

Balance in every brew. Love in every heart and flower. It’s all a part of the appreciation of such an ephemeral art – and being temporary just adds to the beauty itself. All it takes is a sip and a drip. And the best part – we get to drink these wonderful creations. Unlike most art forms, we get to appreciate a visual and edible aesthetic.  I express my hesitance to drink, and consume, such beautiful art – and the response I receive?


That’s the whole point, man!


So drink your cappuccino canvas. Taste every note of roast and be rewarded with every ounce of effort that goes into any design the barista decides. It’s performance. It’s art. It’s coffee.


Drink it all in.


No more articles