History and Basics of Latte Art
The history of latte art goes back centuries. Once you have mastered the fundamentals, all latte art designs can basically be made by etching or free pouring.
How to make professional latte art
The hallmarks of professional latte art are pattern definition and symmetry, good contrast and glossy sheen without visible bubbles. To create a design, you need to master the basic barista skills – the espresso must be good and the milk crafted to silky smooth microfoam.
The most classic latte art designs are the heart and the leaf-like rosetta. More experienced baristas are also able to produce swans and tulips, both of which are variations of the two basic designs.
”Once you’ve mastered the key techniques, you can generate endless new designs by varying the traditional patterns,” says Roman Kolpaktsi, barista instructor from the Barista Association of Finland.
Free pouring is a technique where the design is created by pouring milk on the coffee from a specific height and moving the pitcher to combine the milk foam and crema. In etching, the milk and crema remain more clearly separate from each other and the pattern is completed with an etching pen.'
”You can have endless fun with latte art. It’s great to see people get excited about coffee and come up with amazing patterns,” Kolpaktsi says.
From history of latte art to social media
Coffee was first turned into visual art a few decades ago in Italy, the birthplace of the popular milk-based espresso drinks, but the credit for making latte art mainstream belongs to US coffee shops. Cups of coffee decorated with patterns were popularised in the US in the late 1980s and early 1990s and soon began their spread around the world.
In the 2000s latte art also reached Australia and the Nordic countries. Today, the biggest boom is taking place in Asia, with Asian baristas doing particularly well at world championships for latte art.
”Asian baristas have a really strong work ethic, and they’re persistent and motivated to get to the top,” says barista instructor Kolpaktsi.
According to Kolpaktsi, the popularity of latte art has grown hand in hand with consumers’ overall increase in coffee awareness. Today’s consumers have learned to insist on quality in coffee.
”A great-tasting drink that’s delivered fast and has good pattern definition is a sign of a professional barista who values their work, ingredients and customers,” Kolpaktsi says.
The rise of social media is also bound to have played a role in making latte art a worldwide phenomenon. There is now a much bigger focus on drink presentation as customers love sharing pictures of beautiful cups of coffee online.
There are almost three million Instagram posts with the hashtag #latteart, and on YouTube the most popular latte art videos have been viewed almost five million times. Barista championship winners gain popularity in social media and inspire other baristas around the world.