Celebrate International Coffee Day with latte art
The art form has become quite popular in recent years, giving baristas a creative outlet and an unconventional canvas
Coffee art, barista art or, simply, latte art. The practice of pouring steamed milk straight from a jug into a cup of espresso in order to form patterns is known by different names - but the results are almost always the same: amazing!
The art form has become quite popular in recent years, giving baristas a creative outlet and an unconventional canvas. Well, it's International Coffee Day today, so there's no time like the present to learn what goes into creating the 'browns and whites' that top your favourite beverage.
First stop: Raw Coffee Company, a roastery and cafe in a warehouse in Al Quoz, where we were introduced to their lead barista Rajesh Sai, who has been in the biz for almost six years. "Before becoming a professional barista, I loved watching a lot of YouTube videos on how to make latte art and that's how I developed that skill. Latte art isn't easy. Even a simple pattern like a heart requires practice and patience," he says. Rajesh has been honing this craft as he serves customers. His intricate designs are created by carefully pouring steamed milk on top of an espresso base. His favourite design is a Panda which he has spent a long time perfecting. "You have to think first about what you want to draw and then start pouring. Depending on the art, you have to do it fast but if you want to make intricate designs, you have to be slow", he says.
Over at One Life Kitchen and Cafe in Dubai's famous design district, in-house barista Maverick Manuel believes latter art is a "discipline" - and one that more and more baristas are becoming interested in. "It's a good way to impress customers with the drinks, both in terms of aesthetics and taste," explains Maverick. "It is capable of adding a little joy to someone's day. As baristas, we want to give our customers a great experience. Drawing a rosetta or a simple heart or swan shows your talent, care, and attention to detail. Most people see a heart or tulip on the top of their latte and smile. I think that is worthwhile."
These impressive creations are a blend of the skill of the barista and the physical properties of the mixture of air and liquid and foam. So, what does it take to be a good barista artist? According to Rajesh, "Free pour latte art requires hand dexterity, practice, determination and patience to get maximum results. To get the best latte art, you need good milk texture - and let's face it, creamy, luscious foam is why we order a cappuccino or latte in the first place. Moreover, you need to have a good idea about how to control your pouring."
Maverick from One Life Kitchen agrees. "To be able to do this with precision and dexterity, it requires training. Infusion, contrast and symmetry are as important. The typical categories for evaluating latte art are dependent on really good micro-foam. If the milk is not steamed well, it will result in blotchy latte art." Service is the most important. Even with the same coffee, the passion of different baristas can create a different experience. "I like to be a passionate, friendly barista with strong attention to detail," says Maverick.
A cup of coffee, some hot milk and a lot of imagination are what give us the coffee art that we love to snap for the 'gram. To see them work their craft in person always adds to the experience too. Here's to many more cups of joy.
Happy International Coffee Day!