Latte Art lovin’

Have you ever looked down at a steaming coffee and wondered if the barista has a crush on you? Or a secret passion for ferns? Or just way too much time? Welcome to the world of Latte Art.

We are fascinated by this impressive art form. If you think it’s easy, think again. There are more variables behind making those whirls than days in the week. Interested? Here’s some trivia.

The summarised version, is that Latte Art is created by mixing crema with microfoam (not to be confused with macrofoam).

Crema is the proper name for a shot of espresso
Microfoam is a gooey, marshmallowey type of steamed milk with teeny bubbles
Flat Whites* are made with microfoam (aka wet foam)
Cappucinos are made with macrofoam (aka dry foam) which has larger bubbles and floats on top of the coffee.

Coffee is a lifestyle. As espresso drinking was popularised through the likes of Starbucks and Seattle – Latte Art started popping up all over. In America the revolution was pioneered by a barista called David Schomer, who even opened a Latte Art school.

Here’s an article he wrote in which he describes his glee upon seeing peoples’ reactions to his creations.

Latte Art baristas are criticised by some for spending too much time on the superficial aspects of coffee. But in reality their coffee is often the best tasting as the quality and consistency of the espresso shot and microfoam play such a big role in how the designs turn out.

Latte Art is created either through free pouring or embellishing. Embellishing is done with syrup or powder-stencils while free pouring is all about the motion. Microfoam is blended watchfully into crema with fine-tuned hand motions and rises up to the top in a pattern.

Here’s a step by step free pouring guide to make a fern or rosette. Unlike dangerous Macgyver stunts, you can try this at home. Well, you can if you have a coffee machine that makes crema and microfoam. Oh, hang we sell those. How convenient.

Another option is to get a stovetop espresso maker and whip up your foam with an Aerolatte. Decisions, decisions.

For home microfoaming, it’s best to use cold milk in a stainless steel jug. Also, keep in mind you are not supposed to let the milk boil. If you can’t touch the jug, it’s a bad sign and your foam probably hates you. Get a thermometer and keep it below 70°C.

If this all sounds a bit too much like hard work and you’d prefer to just drink other peoples’ masterpieces, keep an eye on for South Africa’s coffee hot spots.