If you’re not a trained barista, you may not have heard of ‘latte art’ – but you’ll probably have seen it at some point in your coffee-drinking life. ‘Latte art’ refers to the practice of drawing a picture or shape in the froth on top of the finished cup of coffee, as a presentation technique. The more usual shapes are hearts and flowers, but a good barista can produce astonishly complex pictures from geometric images to animals.
How’s it done?
The trick to producing the perfect latte art is to steam the milk correctly – a good commercial coffee machine will have a built-in milk steamer to simplify the process. To produce the correct consistency for drawing your design, the milk needs to be heated slowly to between 150 and 155 degrees centigrade, so that it contains no bubbles and attains a smooth, thick, velvety texture. Draw the milk off into a jug, and swirl it around until any stubborn bubbles have disappeared.
Next, prepare the coffee – a single shot of espresso made from good quality coffee beans. Carefully pour the milk into the cup until it’s half full. Now, you can make your design by manipulating the jug with careful motions of the wrist. Always move the jug rather than the cup, and remember that practice makes perfect!
To draw a flower design, position the pouring stream of milk at one edge of the cup and steadily move the jug backwards over the surface, while simultaneously moving your wrist from side to side. For a heart, pour a circle of milk into the middle of the cup and carefully fill in the hollow outline, then flick your wrist up so that the stream of milk pulls the bottom of the circle into a point for the heart shape.
Another decorative technique is known as ‘etching’ and involves using a pointed object such as a skewer to draw a design into the foam. You could also embellish your finished masterpiece with chocolate powder or chocolate swirls.