Latte Art – Creative Expression on Coffee
When you are in a coffee shop, you can't help but notice the beautiful latte art on cups of coffee. Creative expression takes many forms, and the one that a barista takes pride in is awesome latte art.
This art form is modern, on a new type of material - milk foam. You see the baristas making cup after cup and it might look deceptively easy, however this is one of those skills that’s quite complex and difficult to master.
What is latte art?
Wondering what the definition of latte art is?
It’s the drawing or creativity shown with milk foam on top of an espresso.
This means that the espresso has some steamed milk. Consequently, you’ll find this type of art form on top of cappuccinos, cortados and flat whites.
Latte art is distinguished by the fact that the barista creates a free hand drawing. Therefore, it’s different to shaking chocolate powder through a stencil on to any type of hot drink. That’s decoration. However, what the barista does free hand is art because there’s skill and creativity involved.
Are you also wondering why an espresso is needed? This is because a well made espresso has a crema on top. It's only when textured milk meets this crema that it becomes possible for free hand drawings to be made.
Latte art takes two forms, the regular form and 3d latte art.
Regular latte art
Regular latte art is where the barista textures the milk enough where it can hold it shape when carefully shaken into a drawing. This form doesn’t use any tool other than textured milk.
So no stencils, paint brushes, anything else. Just a jug of textured milk and the skill of the barista in pouring it on top of an espresso.
While it’s not complex to do, amateurs find it frustrating because they don’t manage to achieve a sharp and clean drawing. The reason most often is because learning how to texture milk and create the right espresso takes patience and practice.
Here is a gallery of variety of latte art and this is just a small sample of what’s out there. Typical patterns include the heart or leaf pattern.
How to create latte art?
· Barista style espresso machine – Traditional drawing needs this machine that has a milk wand.
· A milk jug – With the espresso machine, you use a milk jug. The type of milk jug matters, it needs to have a spout, large enough for the milk to substantially increase in volume.
· Milk frother – A milk frother can sometimes create velvet milk with which you can try to draw with a pod coffee machine espresso.
· Wide shallow coffee cup – the type of cup matters for beginners
· Milk – very cold whole or full fat milk
· Espresso with crema
Steps to express your creativity
1. You start with a clean milk wand, cold jug and cold full fat milk
2. The milk wand is angled into the milk jug and you steam the milk.
3. How you do the steaming is crucial, you want micro foam which creates the milk to get dense, velvety and develop a shine and not foam.
4. Once you’ve got the right texture of milk, you tilt the cup with a good espresso in it and gently pour the textured milk in and swirl the milk in.
5. You want to encourage the crema to stay and come to the top.
6. When you are near a full cup you get the spout really close to the cup. Gently rock back and forth to get a pattern forming.
7. Get the heart shape going first, which is usually what everyone starts with.
· It’s going to take many attempts to get your perfect heart. Don’t give up, practice makes perfection 🙂
· Make sure that your milk wand is always clean and that you try out with full fat milk. If you don’t have fat in your milk, it won’t thicken or form the micro foam.
· You do need a perfect espresso with good crema on top
3d latte art
If you’ve got a creative mind, then an easier form of this art is the 3d latte art.
Yet another quirky Japanese invention is the 3d latte art tool, from Takara Tomy. Takara Tomy has a reputation of creating fun cooking toys. It’s called an “AwaTachino".
You create mounds of milk foam on top of your drink and then use a paint brush dipped in chocolate powder or coffee powder to give it some colour. Then your imagination is the only limit.
Look at this gallery of some of the amazing 3d latte art created by some individuals.
Visit Daphne Tan’s Instagram account, a young hobbyist who has a lot of fun creating all kinds of shapes and expressions.
Don’t underestimate the skill involved
Great latte art is combination of an excellent espresso with crema, the right texture of milk and the skill of pouring. The first two need a lot of practice to get right, then followed by the skill of pouring. So this truly does deserve the term art attached to it.
Want to try some coffee related art yourself? Why not have a hand at some coffee bean art?