Raise the bar
World Latte Art Judge Lance Brown shares advice for baristas who have state, national and world latte art competitions in their sights.
Lance Brown knows what it takes to be the best latte artist in the world. He helped train current World Latte Art Champion [WLAC] Caleb Cha, and he’s judged many more on the world stage.
In the midst of the new competition year, Lance says now is the time for latte artists to be thinking about their patterns and preparing their routine if they want a fighting chance of representing their state – or country.
“With Australia winning both the WLAC and World Barista Championship [WBC] in 2015, we’ve raised the bar higher than ever before,” Lance says. “It will be a tough act to follow Caleb’s winning latte art routine, so the next person to step up to the plate has huge shoes to fill.
Lance has worked as an Australian Latte Art Judge since 2003. He judged his first WLAC in Melbourne in 2014 and took on a WLAC Head Judge position in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2015. Within Lance’s 12 years of judging, he says the transition of patterns has been “extraordinary”.
“Five years ago WLAC judges were impressed with well-defined, clean rosettas and a simple heart. Less was more. Now it’s complex. Symmetry, position, level of difficulty, and creativity are more important,” he says.
Each year WLAC Head Judges participate in a calibration before the competition begins. At this year’s calibration in Gothenburg, Lance says he was surprised when judges “oohed and ahhed” over patterns like Pac-Man.
“I had to make it very clear that a pattern like Pac-Man was old and two-dimensional. When it first came on the scene it was different, but the moment I judge a pattern I’ve seen before, it’s old to me,” Lance says.
With this in mind, Lance instilled the value of originality to Cafenatics barista Caleb, who at the June 2015 WLAC produced a winning assortment of patterns including a coloured Smiling Butterfly for the art bar, as well as the Flirting Peacock, Caffeinated Zebra, and Love Triangle for his routine.
Lance says without doubt it was Caleb’s creativity that got him over the line.
“Caleb ticked all the boxes in terms of presentation, professionalism, communication, eye contact, quality of patterns, clarity, accuracy, but most importantly, creativity,” he says.
While Caleb’s patterns were innovative for the 2015 WLAC competition, Lance doesn’t want to see replicas of his drink at any state, national, or world stage.
“Repeat patterns will not win points for creativity. Be innovative – if executed correctly a fresh pattern judges have never seen before is going to have a huge advantage in making it through to the next round,” he says. “In my opinion Australia’s latte art appeal is so high that seeing repeated patterns such as swans, hearts and rosettas is almost the expectation from a local café, not from a competition stage.”
LANCE'S TWELVE TOP TIPS:
1. Ask yourself what your goal is. Is it to compete in the states, nationals, or world competition? If so, how do you plan to get there? Set your sights on the end prize. If you’re focused on making it to the worlds, start preparing now.
2. Don’t be complacent. Learn the rules inside out. Aim to tick every box on the score sheet.
3. Practice run-throughs (timed) in front of a panel, and practice worst case scenarios.
4. What are your three patterns? What’s special about it? Do you have a backup?
5. Develop an on-stage persona and presence. Be confident. Look the judges in the eye.
6. Practice milk texturing with different fat contents: fresh, long-life, full-fat, skim, low-fat, fully modified, lactose-free, modified, homogenised, UF, UHT.
7. Experiment with milk at different temperatures. Keep in mind drinks are not tasted by the judges.
8. Understand conditions. The blend you practice on at your own café won’t be the same coffee you use at nationals or worlds. Practice with variables such as light and dark roasted coffee.
9. Don’t overdress the table setting.
10. Be careful what you share on social media. Don’t give other competitors the upper hand on what you’ll be presenting. If they like what they see they can easily chance their pattern and yours will no longer be original.
11. Don’t present the judges with your best latte art images. It’s unrealistic to replicate perfection.
12. Have the right mentality, attitude and approach to the competition, and at the end of the day, have fun.
To read this article in full see the December 2015 edition of BeanScene Magazine – subscribe here today.