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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Baristas showdown at the throwdown

Photo by Anna Deardoff

POV Coffee hosted “Throwdown Showdown”, a barista competition, on Friday, March 31, 2023.

Local and visiting baristas gathered at POV Coffee House for the first annual “Throwdown Showdown” coffee competition on March 31 at 5 p.m. The throwdown highlighted the talents of baristas through a bracket-based competition judged by three coffee experts.

23-year-old Abram Nilsen from Sugar Land represented Blendin Coffee Club and received first place, followed by Elizabeth Duncan, Class of 2022, with Tavo Coffee Co. in second, and Calvin Phinney, Class of 2021, with Harvest Coffee Bar in third.  

Almost 20 baristas competed, most being from the Bryan-College Station area while four others traveled from Dallas, San Antonio, Houston and Sugar Land. Judges analyzed their coffee on milk technique, base of the milk, latte art symmetry and the number of layers and difficulty of art, according to an email from Food & Beverage Manager at The Stella Hotel, Laura Salmeron. The latte art began with hearts followed by tulips, rosettes and swans. 

“I was definitely nervous, — every single pour that I did I was literally shaking,” Duncan said. “I was just praying the entire time like, ‘Lord, help me.’ But it was also really cool because I had never done something like this before at all … I’m really glad that we had this.” 

Duncan won a cash prize of $200, with first place receiving $300 and third receiving $100, all donated by Geva Coffee in Houston, according to the master of ceremonies Travis Rollins. The judges were: Assistant Director for the Center for Coffee Research & Education at Texas A&M Eric Brenner, Raquel Vazquez from Geva Coffee and President of Austin Coffee Collective, Matthew Rhodes. 

Brenner said this was the first time he had judged a competition like this. 

“Coffee is super complex, [it] is very different,” Brenner said. “The flavors are going to be impacted by the area where it grows, by the altitude, by the different processes whether it’s a wash or natural or honey, by the canopies [and] by the tree systems that are inside the coffee plantations.” 

Nilsen, the first place winner, said he only started drinking coffee around four years ago. He began working at Blendin in May of 2020, and has competed in eight throwdowns before, this being his second win. 

“I always try to grow in my knowledge of coffee,” Nilsen said. “Where I work, we have several different single origin coffees you can choose from, each with unique flavor profiles. So it’s always interesting trying a bunch of new coffees and getting to taste coffees that we could potentially sell.”  

Salmeron said the idea for the throwdown originally came from POV staff members. While hesitant at first, she said she was convinced after seeing the excitement and competition evident at a Houston throwdown she attended.

“When we were there, I noticed a lot of baristas just talking to each other, sharing tips and techniques on how to do things better,” Salmeron said. “Overall, everyone was learning, and that’s what really pushed me to continue doing the throwdown.” 

Salmeron said throwdowns are huge in Seattle, where they judge based on flavor and added components. 

“So that’s what I thought was really cool, people travel from all over the place to come do a throwdown,” Salmeron said. “Hopefully in the future, our goal is to be able to do it two to four times a year if we can get enough traction because BCS is in the middle of Austin and Houston.” 

Local vendor Taco Boss was outside POV for spectators to purchase dinner during the showdown. Door prizes included a $75 gift card to Bygone Vintage and a $10 gift card, hat and beans from Tavo Coffee Co. just to name a few. 

“I feel like if things like this — whether with barista competitions or whatever — became more regular, then it would definitely be really cool,” Duncan said. “This was the first one, and so obviously, it can only get better from here.”  

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