Yet Another CuppaChoice Latte Art Throwdown

CuppaChoice is organising another Latte Art Throwdown on Thursday, November 18 from 7:00pm to 9:30pm at their cafe. Entry fee for the competition will be $5 per person, with the final pot as the prize. Interested participants, please email Suhaimie. Knowing CuppaChoice, there’ll be some unorthodox weirdness thrown in for effect. From what I can remember, they’ve organized blindfolded latte art competitions, latte art in coffee (not espresso) from Nestle vending machines. Early birds will be treated to a cupping session.

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Coffee Meetup During Grand Prix

The latest CGSG (Coffee Greens Singapore) gathering was held in my humble abode during the time Grand Prix was in town. As usual, the gathering was called up at the last minute. And as usual, the CGSG Gang of Four showed up.

CGSG Gang Of Four
CGSG G4: Steve, Kai Seng, Melvin, Colin (L to R)

The gathering was called up as I’ve procured a bag of quite-fresh roasted beans from Intelligentsia@Venice, CA courtesy of Sean Bonner. I met Sean on the chat session moderated by Nick Cho during this year’s WBC. We happened to be the only 2 in Singapore awake at an ungodly hour trying to catch glimpses from  a laggy stream of our favourite baristas in action. One thing led to another, and Sean, who’s a regular at Intelli Venice, bought me a bag of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Adado on his trip back to Singapore. On a side note, Sean also introduced me Intelli Venice’s Chris & M’lissa Owens (both of them renowned coffee greats) when they were in town for F1.

Kai Seng was the first to arrive as he had tickets to F1 finals that very day, and was in a rush to drink his fill and leave. I assured him that was not going to happen. Sure enough, the other 2 arrived late. We were all dying to try Intelli’s Yirgacheffe, which I’ve decided to save for this gathering. Steve brought his roast of Metropolis Coffee’s Green Line, which is an unroasted version of their popular Red Line. It was roasted to Full City +. Given that it’s home turf, I was the designated barista of the day and proceeded to pull shots for us all.

This CGSG gathering was unlike the previous ones we’ve been having. While CGSG was formed out of our love for coffee, we found that each of us had a common love for steaks, grills, wine, prosciutto, home baked breads, gourmet french butter, blue cheese and all these could be had at Kai Seng’s. (Un)fortunately, this Sunday gathering had none of these distractions and our discussion went back to our first love, coffee. We shared views on über coffeegeek, Mark Prince’s articles on the state of coffee and his call out to bring back spro downs instead of latte art throwdowns. Steve and I both remarked that we’ve become less anal retentive in our home barista routines. I’ve switched from using the Espro clicker tamper to a Reg Barber (which John Ting helped me get from WBC 2010 in London). Both Steve and I have stopped weighing the beans and have replaced the bottomless portafilters with La Marzocco portafilters, I’ve stopped taking infinte photos of the naked portafilter pours as well.

Specially for this Sunday gathering, I went back to using the Espro tamper as I wanted to minimise the variables in our taste tests for Steve’s Green Line and Intelligentsia’s Yirgacheffe. Since all of us were familiar with Yirgacheffe, we decided to prolong Kai Seng’s agonizing wait and pulled the Green Line first. Fortunately, the grind setting on my Compak K-6 was suitable for both coffees. The pull was started at 197.5°F on Eric’s Thermometer. The scent for Green Line espresso was tobacco, and the finish was caramel. Enjoyable indeed. The following picture has the taste notes from Metropolis Coffee.

Then came the Intelligentsia Organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Adado. The pull was also at 197.5°F. And wow! The scent was floral, and upon sipping the espresso, we all felt the lemony notes. While 99% of the time on most espresso with this type of taste profile, lemony notes go into overdrive and the taste gives way to brightness and acidity. This time, it was different. Very different. It was a first for all of us. The lemony notes pulled back. We couldn’t quite put our finger on what it reminded us of. Steve mentioned lemon cheesecake. I said lemon meringue or lemon cream. It was the defining moment of a Godshot for all of us. On the bag’s taste notes, it describes the Yirgacheffe as “Jasmine atop lime candy, lemongrass and bergamot.” The 2nd shot was quite consistent with the first. Same lemony notes that never had a chance to go beyond.

While our steakouts (what I call our wining and dining at Kai Seng’s for now) are both satisfying and sinful, I do miss our home barista jam sessions. I hope we get to do one more before the end of this year as soon as Steve can get his new place in order.

Tuesday Night Throwdown At Oriole

Come and pit your latte art skills amongst cheap booze and fellow coffee compadres once again at Oriole’s now infamous Tuesday NIght Throwdown. (or you could just come for the cheap booze!)

5 Buckaroos per person
winner takes all + ultimate bragging rights!
other attractive prizes (wine, dining vouchers, e.t.c.)

knockout format. don’t be shy. all can play!

Ask your friends along! Remember: more participants = BIGGER POT. Register through facebook or call to Oriole Cafe & Bar (6238 8348) – we need your RSVP! p.s. – no handicap for those drunk before the contest!   [excerpted from their facebook page.]

The REAL Latte Art Challenge

When I first heard that Nestlé is sponsoring the latte art competition, I was already wondering what magic new espresso machine they are going to pull out of their hat this time. Yes, Nestlé, as in Nespresso infamy. Someone actually leaked (untruthfully) that it was going to be a Nespresso machine that was going to do the espresso base for the cappuccinos. I smsed the rest of the CGSG group, only to have CGSG Founder Kai Seng reply with “They should up the ante and use Nestlé milk powder.”

Yesterday, as the Latte Art Comp preceded the main Barista Competition, it was finally revealed to us what the magic machine was. I regret I do not have any photos here. (I shall take some later today.) You know the kind of Milo/Teh Tarik/Black Coffee/Hot Chocolate dispensers they have littering just about any ubiquitous kopitiam/hospital/waiting area? Yes, that all-in-one dispenser was making the espresso, sorry, black coffee for the capp base. They had a briefing on the stage where the 2 dispensers were proudly displayed, its innards being revealed to all in amazement. The insides looked like the insides of your CMYK inkjet printer. They have neat cartridges for black coffee premix, milo premix, teh tarik premix, etc. I was thinking someone would just be out there to make a cost effective Continuous Ink Beverage Supply System for this dispenser. But, at the same time, Steve and I were thinking of the problems the competitors are going to face trying to make latte art with this coffee.

This dispenser comes without PID, without all the wonderful technology most people take for granted when working with a budget toy like a $50 Krups or Braun, without the consistency to put out even an un-espresso nespresso. This is the equivalence of a 2 in one coffee mix that comes 30 packs in a bag at your nearest supermarket. It makes sweet black coffee topped with big bubbly foam. Now, this is what I call a REAL LATTE ART CHALLENGE. Ever since their first Barista Challenge in 2009, CuppaChoice always had the creativity of doing something out of the norm with the rest of the crowd. Their 1st Barista Challenge had the blind latte art challenge where competitors had to pour latte art without looking at the cup. This, of course, produced hilarious results with half the competitors burning their hands with hot milk.

You just have to think out of the box for this one. A few competitors thought of stamping out the foam by knocking the cup against the tabletop, the same way you would when faced with bubbles in your micro-foamed milk. But, for some, the bubbly foam coffee was still inpenetrable by the micro-foamed milk. This is coupled with the fact that even if the milk found a way to penetrate the coffee foam, it still had the thick coffee foam to restrict the flow of milk on top to draw your latte art. To the untutored eye, it would seem these competitors just do not have the skill to put out nice latte art. However, much to the surprise of many, the few and the proud still found a way to make really nice 5 hearted tulips, rosettas, and the like. Of course, it didn’t help the matter much as the judges were 2 time Singapore National Barista Champion John Ryan Ting and SNBC 2010 #3 Suhaimie Sukiman, both of whom came in #2 and #3 in both this year’s SNBC and its companion Latte Art Competition. #1 was happily vacationing in some Indonesian island and wasn’t available to do the judging.

Here are the finalists:

  • Nizam (Jolly Frog)
  • Fadzli (Jones the Grocer)
  • Terrence (30 mls)
  • Sham (CuppaChoice)
  • Fadhly (CuppaChoice)

Here’s one blog post that came to my mind when I was watching the latte art challenge unfold. Since the coffee foam was hard to work with, it would be great if you could spoon off the coffee foam, leaving just the black coffee. Then you would, as illustrated in James Hoffman’s answer to the readers who mentioned that latte art would be difficult without crema, be able to easier draw your latte art in black coffee.

This is a screenshot from James’ site. Clicking on it wouldn’t produce the video. You have to go to the link above and view the entire video. :)

MITR PHOL Barista Challenge 2010

[This post has been updated with correct dates and times as of 3 June 2010]

CUPPACHOICE INTERNATIONAL PTE LTD has been given the honour and responsibility to organise and run a Barista Challenge on behalf of MITR PHOL THAILAND and MAXWILL (ASIA) PTE LTD, in conjunction with MITR PHOL SUGAR Trade Show 2010.

The Trade Show will be held from the 4th to 6th June and the Barista Challenge will be the main focus from the 5th and finals on the 6th of June on the 4th June from 11 am to 7 pm and on the 5th June from 11 am to 7 pm.

The main event is MITR PHOL BARISTA CHALLENGE and the side event, MITR PHOL LATTE ART THROWDOWN.

Come join us in this carnival, after all, it is also the GREAT SINGAPORE SALE and there is no better place to be than in Orchard Road.

MITR PHOL BARISTA CHALLENGE 2010 (in running order)

1. Jackie (Jolly Frog Bistro Bar)

2. Terence (Boomarang Express)

3. Noribsham (Cuppachoice Café & Academy)

4. Natasha (1 Caramel Café)

5. Mustaffa (1 Caramel Café)

6. Fadhly (Cuppachoice Café & Academy)

7. Jason (Starbucks Coffee)

8. Cessna (Café Cartel)

9. Arfian (30 Mls Coffee Bar)

10. Nizam (30 Mls Coffee Bar)

11. Andy (Starbucks Coffee)

12. Main Pavan (Jones The Grocer)

NESTLE LATTE ART CHALLENGE

1. Arfian (30 Mls Coffee Bar)

2. Alif (Jones The Grocer)

3. Fadzli (Jones The Grocer)

4. Noribsham (CuppaChoice Café & Academy)

5. Art (Jones The Grocer)

6. Terence (Boomarang Express)

7. Fadhly (Cuppachoice Café & Academy)

8. Jackie (Jolly Frog Bistro Bar)

9. Andy (Starbucks Coffee)

10. Nizam (30 Mls Coffee Bar)

11. Jason (Starbucks Coffee)

12. Cessna (Café Cartel)

13. Han Bing (Café Cartel)

[excerpted from Facebook]

—————————————————————————

PANEL OF JUDGES

The judges have been announced to be the following:

Alex Chong- Sensory Judge (Master Roaster & MD of CuppaChoice)

Colin Loh – Sensory Judge (CGSG Founding Member, espresso.colinloh.com)

Adrian Toh – Sensory Judge (Nestle Professional Representative)

Zaccheus Leck – Sensory Judge (Maxwill Representative Coffee Lover)

Steve Cairns – Technical Judge (CGSG Founding Member)

Cheryl Lee – Technical Judge (2 time Malaysia Barista Champion)

John Ting – Latte Art Judge (Singapore National Barista Champion 2008,2009, WBC 2009 Ranked #21, Barista@Oriole Cafe)

Competition Blend

The blend used for the competition is a 60% Kenya AA / 40% Ethiopia Sidamo roasted by CuppaChoice to Mid-Dark.

Personal Notes:

I went to scout the location today. While my previous post mentioned that the barista challenge was to be held at Takashimaya, it is in actual fact being held at the outdoors Civic Plaza. The area allocated for the MITR PHOL Barista Challenge is super-huge, as compared to the area we are so used to during the Singapore National Barista Championships. The SNBC 2010 area was about one-tenth the size of MITR PHOL BC. The stage area is just behind the fountain at Ngee Ann City. I hope to update this blog post with photos tomorrow.

3rd CuppaChoice Barista Challenge at Ngee Ann City

[Dates have been updated as of 3rd June 2010]

I was going to announce this event much earlier on, but I’m glad I was busy and couldn’t do so. After a few revisions from CuppaChoice, here’s their final draft. SNBC 2010 #3 Suhaimie, if there are any changes…. Please let me know.

CuppaChoice International is organising their #3 Barista Challenge @ Takashimaya Departmental Store THE CIVIC PLAZA, Ngee Ann City from the 4th to 6th 5th June 2010 in conjunction with Asia’s Number 1 sugar manufacturer, MITR PHOL (who is running a )TRADESHOW from 4th to 6th June. Competition will thus be named, MITR PHOL BARISTA CHALLENGE 2010. More than $2,000 worth of cash and prizes are to be won. Interested baristi, please email #3 at suhaimie@cuppachoice.com for details (and obviously some well-wishes if you want to get on #3’s good side and win at least a door prize) today.

There are 2 competitions being contested. The main one, MITR PHOL BARISTA CHALLENGE requires a participation fee of $30 per Barista and the side challenge, Nestle Latte Art Free Pour requires a fee of $10. CuppaChoice will be collecting the funds on behalf of MITR PHOL and these funds will be added to the prize money.

Please confirm the challenges in which you and/or your representative(s) will be participating in. Please write a cheque payable to CUPPACHOICE PTE LTD and mail it to

CUPPACHOICE ACADEMY
3 Temple Street
Singapore 058556

BY 22nd OF MAY 2010.

For more details & well wishes, please email #3 at suhaimie@cuppachoice.com.

This Barista Challenge has garnered a huge interest and CuppaChoice has increased the slots from 10 to 12 Baristi for the main challenge. Latte Art has no capped limit on participation.

Singaporean coffee geek’s notes and reviews on espresso and coffee roasting. Formatted for iPhone / iPod Touch.