The milk has been stretched, the cups are down, and the winner of the 2018 Vitasoy Espress Yourself Latte Art Competition has been revealed. Sam Low, of MOJO in Auckland, took out the inaugural title, as well as the $5000 cash prize.

Drawn from hundreds of online entries, three finalists were selected to compete in a live latte art competition on the Vitasoy Espress Yourself stage at the Foodfirst Exhibition, held on Monday. They were Sam Low (MOJO, Auckland), Jiyhe Lauren Han (Muffin Break Albany) and Bonnie Lam (The Coffee Shack, Wanaka). Each finalist had 20 minutes to produce a single creative pattern using both dairy and Vitasoy non-dairy milk. Points were awarded for creativity and innovation, level of intricacy, identical patterns and contrast patterns and overall performance.

Low was announced as the winner at the Foodfirst Gala Dinner. Han and Lam took out second place ($2500) and third place ($1500) respectively. Low described winning the Vitasoy Espress Yourself Latte Art competition as ‘unreal.’

“The fact that I got rewarded for something I do almost every day at work, it helps reaffirms that passion that I have for this craft that I have pursued for over six years now,” he said. “I liked that we had to compete certain rounds with soy milk as its completely different in terms of pouring techniques and milk stretching, a true test for working baristas in the real world.”

Low is no stranger to latte art competitions. He has previously been named the NZ Latte Art Champion in 2013 and 2015 and was the 2016 Meadow Fresh New Zealand Barista Champion. In 2013 he was selected as a World Latte Art finalist. He currently works for MOJO Coffee as the operations co-ordinator for Auckland, where he gets to train, coach and help baristas grow and develop their skills and knowledge.

The People’s Choice prize, worth $1500, had been hotly contested on social media over the past few months, and was won by Isaac Runo Yu of Orb Coffee.