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Barista brawl: Compass Coffee hosts latte art competition

Hip-hop thumps from the speakers at Compass Coffee as people gather around the Vancouver coffee shop’s counter.

Again and again, cups of neatly designed lattes are placed on the counter, and each time, the crowd yells out for their favorite design. The scene resembles freestyle rap or dance battles, except this is the Pacific Northwest, which means coffee is what’s being judged.

The latte art throwdown hosted by Compass Coffee Friday night was a round-robin style competition, where area baristas competed to create the most stylish latte art.

It’s kind of barista subculture, but Compass’ event came with a dash of cream on top — proceeds from the throwdown’s buy-ins were donated to Vancouver resident Steve Lenz, 33, who was hospitalized after a motorcycle accident last month. The shop raised around $200, said Kelsey Holtz, a barista at Compass, who is friends with Lenz’s girlfriend, Mallory Bartlett.

“I’m excited we have the opportunity to donate to someone,” Holtz said. “That was something we thought of after the fact. How can we give back to the community? It aligned perfectly that they are in need, and we wanted to host this event. It feels really good to be able to help in any way.”

Lenz is making progress, Bartlett said. He’s been moved out of intensive care, and is now at Vibra Specialty Hospital of Portland. His first week in the hospital, doctors were questioning whether to take him off a ventilator, but he started responding to inquiries from doctors — his first response was a thumb’s up. Now he’s able to do some minor communication, and Bartlett said it’s a waiting game to see how his health progresses since his traumatic brain injury.

Lenz was even able to write a small message recently: “game day,” a symbol that his Philadelphia Eagles fandom is just as strong as it was before the wreck, Bartlett said.

Bartlett said it is awesome that Compass held the fundraiser, and added “Steve actually loves Compass Coffee, so it’s perfect.” Holtz communicated with Bartlett before hosting the fundraiser, and said that it might not draw much money. That didn’t bother Bartlett at all.

“It’s the fact that people are showing up and caring. It’s not the money,” she said.

Bartlett explained that Lenz is “the guy everyone gravitates around,” and someone who would help friends in need at the drop of a hat. She’s happy to see that his signature generosity is now being bestowed on him by the friends, family and people Lenz doesn’t even know. More than 150 people have now donated to his cause on Facebook, and the fundraiser is about $3,000 away from its $15,000 goal.

“It kind of blows me away because I feel like I’m in own world, but so many people are interested in his progress,” Bartlett said. “I feel like the world is so big.”

On the web

If you would like to donate to Steve Lenz, visit his Facebook fundraiser here:


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