Coffee Fest Competitors Interview

Coffee Fest Latte Art Championship Open will be held this month 25-27 August in Los Angeles. Through the interviews below we hope to showcase our Houston talents, and to show our support for the baristas who travel for this Latte Art Competition. Previous Champions from Houston include Steven Lim (2015) , Antoine Franklin (2017), and Emilee Bryant (2018 - she currently lives in New York).

Name: Nicolas “Aloha” Tanaka

Which company/ shop do you currently work for?

BlendIn Coffee Club

How many year have you been working in coffee?

A year and a half!

Is this your first time competing at Coffee Fest?

No. My first CF competition was in Indianapolis 2019.

Who do you draw your inspirations from?

My inspiration has always come from the Japanese baristas. Since my visit to Japan, I’ve discovered the amount of love and care these baristas put into their cups. Their attention to detail shows in their coffee, and i strive to share that Japanese hospitality in my shop.

What is your next goal in coffee?

I love the idea of sharing my education in coffee. Right now, i do everything to make mistakes and grow from them! It’s okay to be curious and to go crazy. Coffee is yet to be fully discovered! I plan to become an educator in coffee and express my passion to hopefully channel through others.

What do you enjoy the most about a competition like this one?

My first competition In Indianapolis was quite stressful, considering i didn’t make it past the first round haha. The people were just as supportive though. From having no coffee relationships outside of Houston, i really got to connect and share my knowledge and experiences with others around the world.


Name: Rob Sykes

Which company/ shop do you currently work for?

layman rob Co.

Years in coffee:


Is this your first time competing at Coffee Fest?

This is my second time!

What do you love about latte art that pushes you to compete?

I love the dueling aspect of latte art competitions. Reminds me of how the Samurai would duel one another. Something about this is attractive to me.

In what aspects do you feel competition is challenging you?

Challenges me to get better. Challenges me to focus on the details. Challenges me to be present.

What gears are you currently using?

Slow Pour Supply of course! Black handleless pitcher

What do you think the industry can do to help push forward latte art?

It seems to be organically growing as is. That being said, having skilled latte artists who carry themselves with humility and are willing to share knowledge is tremendously helpful. We need more people like Antoine aka Twizz in every coffee community. Also, Slow Pour Supply Co. deserves to be mentioned. Having a milk pitcher company so generously invested in the coffee community can only continue to help elevate the game


Name: Simon Park

Which company/ shop do you currently work for?

Greenway Coffee

How many year have you been working in coffee?

5 years

Is this your first time competing at Coffee Fest?

No, this will be my third

What does latte art mean to you?

Latte art is one of the finishing touches from the barista before handing over the drink to a guest. Not that latte art is any indication how the drink is going to taste but in a way, like plating, shows the person you are handing the drink that you care about the drink you are handing to them. I desire to show my guests that I care about every step of the process.

In what aspects do you feel competition is challenging you?

Pouring latte art well in a cafe is easy. There is no pressure. When you are competing in front of an audience/judges along with a 2 min 30 sec time limit, the stakes get higher and the ability to execute pours become increasingly difficult.

What is the biggest challenge do you see baristas might be facing nowadays when preparing for a competition like Coffee Fest?

Tunnel vision. It's great to prepare for a competition like Coffee Fest but when you spend most of your shift focusing on latte art rather than serving your guests or helping your co-workers, you make it all about you rather than improving others around you.

What are the some of your plans for the next 2 years?

To grow as a coffee professional via competitions and self improvement outside of work.