It’s hard to imagine a new wave in the coffee industry without latte art. Instagram is jam-packed with photos of cups of coffee with contrasting hearts, tulips, and rosettes on top. Often, the barista’s ability to pour latte art confirms their professionalism. In short, latte art is a special way of pouring frothed milk into espresso that results in various patterns on the surface of the coffee. It is not difficult to become a latte artist for a person who has already worked as a barista, but you can’t get a good drawing without milk that is frothed in the right way and at the right temperature.
The main latter art patterns are hearts, rosettes, and tulips. These basic patterns can be combined to pour more complex drawings. The World Latte Art Championship has been held since 2005. Every year, the drawings become more sophisticated ranging from simple patterns to real artworks.
First, I’d like to tell you whether a latte art design affects the taste of the drink and, if yes, how. Latte art makes a beverage visually attractive and certainly affects its taste. Running ahead of the story, I’d like to specify that a high-quality drawing is achieved due to the contrast between the color of the milk you pour and the espresso that serves as a canvas. It should be highlighted that coffee with a latte art pattern won’t give you the most balanced drink flavor. On the top layer of espresso, you’ll see a contrasting and symmetrical ring of milk cream. The pattern is clearly seen and looks beautiful, but you’ll taste the coffee bitterness at the first sip.
To achieve a soft and rich taste, you can compromise the latte art by mixing the layers of milk and coffee. Of course, you can try to make coffee without damaging both the pattern and the taste of the drink. First, you need to pour some milk from the pitcher into an espresso, rotate the cup to stir the ingredients (baristas call this process “to make a base surface”). Then, pour the remaining milk into the cup and make a drawing. With this method, espresso that serves as a canvas becomes less concentrated and contrasting, but the pattern is beautiful.
In 2014, the scientists from the Oxford University conducted a study and discovered that beautiful latte art increases the client’s confidence in the taste of the drink as if proving that the barista did their best to make a delicious drink. In addition, the latte art pattern affects the perception of taste because the flavor is formed not only by the taste and smell receptors but also by sight.
To pour latte art, you need the following:
- a coffee machine to brew espresso and froth milk. The milk that is frothed in a proper way is very important;
- a pitcher as a basic utensil for work. It is a small metal jug with a spout;
- a small preheated cup;
- milk and coffee.
Now, let’s move on to the section where I share my knowledge on how to make a drawing on the coffee surface. First of all, the basic premise of a successful latte art pattern is properly frothed milk because bubbles or an incorrect structure will be an obstacle to making a good drawing. The milk should have a homogeneous structure and glossy foam of 55-65°C (131-149°F). This picture shows what milk should NOT look like: there are a lot of bubbles in it and no swirling funnel.
The heart is a basic drawing element. Start pouring milk slowly in a thin stream into a cup with espresso. If you manage to do it at the first attempt, you can wiggle the hand that holds the cup in a circular motion, thereby helping to mix milk with coffee. With regular practice, you’ll know how fast you need to pour milk. The main thing is to make it with less blotchiness, leaving the coffee surface uniform. Once the cup is 70% full, you can start drawing.
Keep the cup tilted and hold the pitcher’s spout closer to the center of the drink. Pour milk into the center of the cup in a thicker stream to let the froth on top of the milk pour into the cup as well. If everything is done correctly, you’ll see a white dot on the coffee surface that may be blurry and not contrasting the first time. Note that skills will come with practice. Latte art is not difficult if you understand its basic principles.
To finish the heart pattern, lift the pitcher a little higher, pour milk making the stream thin, and draw the line from the place where it was finished to the beginning of the circle. The thin stream of milk should cross the drawing, stretching it a little and dividing the circle to form a heart. The heart is the basic element for drawing a lot of other patterns. If you connect two hearts, you’ll get a tulip pattern.
Is latte art hard to learn? Of course, it is difficult to master because you need to control several processes at once and should have a certain artistic taste. However, you’ll become a skilled hand after a few days of practice.