As any other form of art, latte art requires skill, technique, and an abundance of creativity. Baristas across the world work hard to perfect designs and even come up with new ones. There are barista academies throughout the world preparing a whole workforce of talented coffee makers with steady hands and a creative mind. But as practice makes perfect, here are some basic things you need to know in order to start creating your own latte art at home.
The media for this art form are espresso, steamed milk, and foamed milk. The base is built with the espresso and steamed milk and the foam is what adds dimension and contrast. With a strong wrist, one can slowly pour the foam so it won’t mix with the base (espresso and steam milk). If poured too fast it will mix with the base almost immediately. If the milk is not properly foamed, it will crumble and mix with the base. You could use a hand frother to ensure the density of your foam is at its best, or check to see if your espresso machine has a frother installed. Most machines do. When creating the foam. Make sure to tilt your coffee cup so oxygen comes in. That is key for the bubbles to grow and create the ideal froth.
The Wrist Work
Once your froth is ready to be poured, warm up with some wrist stretches and get ready to shape your froth into whatever shape you’d like to try. The opportunities are endless here, but for starters a back and forth movement will create waves in your coffee. Once you pour all the steamed milk in wave shapes you could try to create a line in the middle with the last bit, and if this is too challenging for the first try, drawing a line across with a toothpick will do the job just as well. If your froth allows it, you could also create one big blob on top and give it a shape. You could make your latte a mountain with snow on top (as the bottom of the latte is brown and the top is white and soft looking), you could give it ears and paint a face to make it a cat, dog, deer, any animal of choice. The internet is filled with creative ideas but some basics like the wave swirl are a required skill in order to pass barista exams.
A traditional latte doesn’t have spices, but what would America be without the Cinnamon Latte, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Vanilla Latte, Lavender Latte, Birthday Cake Latte, etc? There is a perfect order to balance the chemistry of your latte, and in that order, the flavoring should go with the espresso. For example, add to a cup: espresso, vanilla extract, sugar, steamed milk, and then top it with your froth art. Amounts are largely to taste, but consider that if the taste of coffee is overpowered by sweets or the added flavors, then you are drinking a warm drink with coffee -not coffee. Keep it a latte, by not allowing the extra spices to take over the coffee itself, but simply enhance it.
I hope you find excitement and joy in creating latte art and even more in sharing it with your loved ones. Creating beautiful lattes can be a love language in itself as it is an opportunity to serve those around us and show them how much we care for them. Caring to the point of taking the extra time and effort to create something for their enjoyment.