First and second place pours in the competition for best latte art.

First and second place pours in the competition for best latte art. Seattle is coffee. So it’s only appropriate that this weekend our fine city hosted its 20th annual Coffee Fest, a trade show that celebrates all things–even the ridiculous things, like caffeinated waffles–coffee. For the love of those sweet roasted beans, I headed downtown to the convention center Sunday for my first Coffee Fest. After the equivalent of approximately 12 shots of espresso, I’ve put together a quick recap of the event (and may never sleep again): See Also:Conduit Coffee’s Labor of LoveBack to Business at Cafe RacerFree Sips and Schooling at Tony’s CoffeesLatte art competitions are serious–very serious. When I think great latte art, I think of the dude at Fremont Coffee Company who once poured me a latte with a cow skull on top. While there’s no denying how awesome the baristas there are, the Latte Art World Championship is nail-biting, hand-trembling, very serious business–no skulls or swans or cutesy monkey designs here. Dozens gathered to watch the competitors sweat it out in a bracket-style, head-to-head tournament. Cameras captured the delicate leaves and symmetrical hearts in each perfectly poured cup. And from 64 challengers, one winner was chosen–Kei Hamada, who flew in all the way from Japan–based on the beauty, definition, color infusion, speed, and difficulty in his winning pour. (Special shout-out to local boy Cole McBride of Visions Espresso, who took home third.) Sometimes the underdog wins.Last week, Jesse Nelson of Conduit Coffee Company told me he was entered in Coffee Fest’s competition for America’s best espresso. I wished him all the luck in the world–here’s one guy single-handedly running a roasting company–but I never expected him to take home second place. His Locofocos Espresso is unexpected and delightful, but (nearly) the best in the country? Conduit is now primed for world domination. There’s a market for everything.The award for best new product–one that can’t be consumed, anyway–went to the Java Hook, a four-inch reusable plastic hook that fits snugly between your coffee cup and the little cardboard sleeve that keeps your hands from burning and enables you to hang your cup from just about anything: shopping carts, seat backs, car door handles, briefcases, whatever. Simple, yes, but I can’t be the only one who regularly juggles a latte with about 17 other things. The Texas-based husband and wife behind the Java Hook told me they just launched Monday; I’m guessing you’ll be seeing these things around, at least at gift shops, soon. When it comes to coffee, Seattle still reigns supreme. Sure, we didn’t take home first place in latte art or espresso, and we didn’t even place in the top eight when it came to the best coffeehouse competition, but this is a city that knows their beans. Between the parties and the hometown love on the exhibition floor–Caffe Vita and Victrola both had beautiful booths set up to display the skills of their top baristas and spectacular quality of their beans–I think we did Seattle proud. Follow Voracious on Twitter and Facebook.

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