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Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019 - My Journey

“Time! Good morning judges, my name is Swee Heng and I will be your tour guide for today!”

With that, my performance routine for the 2019 Singapore Latte Art Championships (SLAC) has officially begun. This trip back to the national stage felt nostalgic, as I picked up from where I left off since last year’s competition.

Looking back at Singapore Latte Art Championships 2018

Last year was the first time I took part in Singapore Latte Art Championships, a competition organised by Singapore Coffee Association and sanctioned by World Coffee Events. The winner of Singapore Latte Art Championships will represent Singapore in the World Latte Art Championships, so I felt extremely jittery as the stakes are high. I didn’t have any expectations on how well I would do; I just wanted to do my best and see how I fared against other latte artists in Singapore.

The biggest pain point was preparation time – I really only had 10 days to train for the routine as I took too long in finalising the designs. I knew I had to give myself a longer runway to prepare for future editions of SLAC.

My competition designs in 2018 were on the safe side, as I wanted to pitch designs with a moderate difficulty level that I could pull off on stage. They were definitely well-liked, as several judges had commented after the competition that they enjoyed the seahorse and goldfish designs in particular.

However, in terms of breakthrough, I personally felt that the designs did not challenge boundaries and were still within comfort zone.

2018 Singapore Latte Art Championships Finals
2018 Singapore Latte Art Championships Finals

A Bold Concept for Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019

Fast forward to 2019, I started to conceptualise the designs for SLAC three months before the competition. I tried to gain inspiration from visits to Singapore Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay, but the flora and fauna simply didn’t excite me.

As I reflected on my own barista journey over the past five years, I wanted to come up with designs to celebrate the coffee scene in Singapore.

More specifically, I wanted to create designs that a Singaporean barista would be proud to showcase on any stage.

Additionally, the current latte art scene is centred on plants and animals, so I really wanted my designs to stand out. As such, I decided to go with the Singapore Attractions Latte Art Series.

The first few drafts were laughable (no kidding). I played around with some of the iconic structures and features of Singapore. Here are some of my earliest iterations XD

Singapore Latte Art Championships Early Design Drafts
Early Drafts of Design Concepts

There were many times I grew so frustrated that I wanted to abandon the concept. But each time I wanted to give up, I reminded myself of the motivation to create something that represents my country.

With the help of my beloved team at The Coffee Roaster, we created several editions of designs, each iteration better than the previous one.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely proud to share the final version with all of you!

Singapore Attractions Latte Art Series

Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019 Semi Finals
Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019 Semi Finals

Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019 Finals
Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019 Finals

Singapore Latte Art Championships: Competition Rundown

The entire competition is a three-day event.

On Day 1, competitors have 15 minutes to do a practice round. Subsequently, we moved on to the first part of the competition – Art Bar. In this round, competitors have 5 minutes to prepare and present one single design (probably the design that the latte artist is most proud of). There are no judges on site and no presentation is required; the design is photographed and assessed behind closed doors.

This was my Art Bar photograph!

Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019 Art Bar
Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019 Art Bar

*This scored the joint-highest in the Art Bar round

On Day 2, the semi-finals performance round begins! Participants will have to present two sets of matching free pour lattes, as well as one set of matching macchiatos, under the time limit of 9 minutes.

Performance rounds have a Technical component to assess the barista’s technical competencies, as well as a Visual component to assess the final latte art presented.

In my opinion, my semi-finals performance went pretty well! From the moment I began my introduction, I was able to engage the judges with the storyline. The actual latte art pours were of reasonably good standard too.

Made it to the Finals!

Singapore Latte Art Championships Finals
Singapore Latte Art Championships Finalists

And finally, Day 3 is Finals Day!

The format of the competition is similar to the Semi-finals round, now with a 10 minute time limit. Macchiato Pours will not feature in the finals, with the set of matching Designer Lattes in its place. Designer Lattes involve the use of etching, which allows the latte artist to use their holistic skills to create more intricate designs.

I felt that my Finals routine didn’t go as well as I would like. Presentation wise, I was still able to deliver an engaging performance. In terms of the actual latte art pour, I fell short of my expectations. But one thing is certain: I left everything on stage!

These are the actual pours that I delivered. I received the 3rd Runner-up position in SLAC 2019, matching my competition ranking last year.

Singapore Latte Art Championships Finals Actual
Singapore Latte Art Championships Finals - Actual Pours

My finals performance was definitely not my best, but I learnt a lot from the judges’ comments. This will be essential fuel for our growth as we study the score sheet and identify areas of improvement, before we start work in training and preparation.

It’s a Wrap!

I resonate deeply with James Hoffmann’s view on competitions. The 2007 World Barista Champion states

“If you compete with the sole goal of winning then most of the time competitions are disappointing and unenjoyable”

Of course, every competitor wants to win and represent their country at the world stage. Though I fell short of this goal, I am grateful that this competition spurred me to unleash my creativity in coming up with the design concept, as well as providing me with the invaluable opportunity to showcase the concept.

And in this regard, I truly achieved what I set out to do.

Life’s a journey, not a destination. As this chapter closes, many more awaits.

In Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019, I genuinely enjoyed the process of preparing for the competition. I am very proud of these original designs, and I cannot ask for a better stage to present them to the country and fellow Singaporeans.

Thank you for being a part of our Singapore Latte Art Championships 2019 journey, and we’ll come back stronger next year!


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neil jiohu
neil jiohu
4 days ago

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