The Providence Coffee Society is a group of people who share a love for all things java. Hipster-haters may poke fun of the term “barista,” but anyone who’s ever spent time behind the counter at a Starbucks (or Seven Stars, or The Coffee Exchange, or White Electric) knows how much knowledge and practice it takes to pour that perfect cup.
New Harvest Coffee Roasters, which is housed inside Hope Artiste Village, has been organizing barista-focused Latte Art Throwdown events for five years now. VP Gerra Harrigan says, “We saw the specialty coffee communities growing in different parts of the country and decided to take the lead in developing one in the Northeast.” New Harvest’s ambition has resulted in a monthly battle, in which baristas compete to see whose latte art reigns supreme. The prize? It’s $5 to pour, and the winner takes all. “The winner also gains possession of the coveted green coat, which he or she adds flair to, and then passes on to the next month’s winner,” Harrigan laughs.
The first year or two were a struggle. Harrigan says. “The same 20 people would come out to pour latte art, but as the years progressed we were able to get more and more baristas engaged.” Now, PCS sees 75 or so folks at each of the Tuesday night throwdowns. New Harvest hosted the most recent event at its training center, also located inside Hope Artiste. Harrigan tells me that baristas-in-training come from all over New England to use their facilities and expertise. “We also organize the Mid-Atlantic Northeast Artisan Coffee Conference, which brings together about 200 people for an annual event here at New Harvest,” she says. The focus of this event is to bring education, lectures and hands-on classes to the local coffee artisans and to help further the interest and enthusiasm for the craft.
PCS’s Latte Art Throwdowns are open to the public, with no cover and free beer. Each month sees a new location, but one thing is always consistent: great people are having fun... while checking out that tricked out coat.