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November 7, 2013
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Fueling Eagle County’s coffee culture

To his co-workers, Alex, a barista over at Yeti’s Grind in Vail, is now “Alex the swan guy.”

Which is to say Alex has been practicing pouring swans on the top of foamy lattes in preparation for the Thursday Night Throwdown Latte Art competition at Yeti’s Grind in Vail.

“Everyone should know there’s a swan guy in the competition,” said Dakota Smith, a fellow barista at Yeti’s who will also compete tonight. Smith has been working on his double rosetta and tulip designs, he said.

Locally, The Bookworm of Edwards started the rotating throwdown event with a competition in March.

“The whole concept of this originated in Atlanta many years ago,” said Tara Picklo, who co-owns Yeti’s Grind in Vail and Eagle with her husband, Nate. “The whole idea is to rotate. We’re the next one to host, and I’m sure Loaded Joe’s will likely be next. The whole idea is to encourage the coffee culture in our valley.”

Picklo, who judged at the last event, moves to the other side of the counter and will compete tonight. Her husband, Nate, will help judge the event along with Travis Colbert, the winner of the last competition and owner of City on a Hill coffee roasters in Leadville. A third representative from Loaded Joe’s who is yet to be determined will also judge.

“The cool thing about doing this is it inspires baristas to brush up on their talent and practice a bit more and take a few more risks,” Picklo said. “There’s been some practicing going on. We’ve been saying ‘give a free latte to a local and practice something new,’ encouraging baristas to stay up on their talent. Once we set the date, people start watching YouTube videos. It remotivates you. It’s like if you have a big race to train for, but we’re just geeky baristas.

Motivation and challenges

It’s free to watch the competition and attendees will likely score a free drink out of the deal. It’s $5 to participate; winner takes all. Around 15 to 20 people are expected to compete, Picklo said.

It’s the “cold hard cash” that’s convinced Smith to compete again, he said.

“That’s the main motivating factor,” he said.

The biggest challenge for the folks competing comes down to the equipment, Smith said. The Bookworm has a Linea espresso machine, while both machines at Yeti’s Grind in Vail are made by La Marzocco.

“The challenge for the people who come here, and my challenge when I went to The Bookworm, was getting used to the machine,” Smith said. “It’s kind of like learning how to do everything again. You have to learn how to steam the milk really quick. And the coffee is different. Bookworm serves Novo, out of Denver. and we serve City on a Hill, from Leadville.”

The throwdowns take place at minimum twice a year, but “quarterly is the goal,” Picklo said.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.

“The whole concept of this originated in Atlanta many years ago,” said Tara Picklo, who co-owns Yeti’s Grind in Vail and Eagle with her husband, Nate. “The whole idea is to rotate. We’re the next one to host, and I’m sure Loaded Joe’s will likely be next. The whole idea is to encourage the coffee culture in our valley.”


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The VailDaily Updated Nov 7, 2013 02:06PM Published Nov 8, 2013 03:56PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.