Local baristas create and compete with latte art
They are fleeting things of beauty … the exquisite designs of coffee crema (the emulsion of coffee oil and brewed coffee that rises to the top of an espresso shot) and milk microfoam (thick foam consisting of tiny air bubbles) that create latte art.
A growing coffeehouse trend since the early ’90s, images of patterns and illustrations made in steamy cups now proliferate on the Internet and on image-driven social media outlets like Instagram. If you’ve ever ordered a latte at one of the local coffee roastery Bold Bean’s locations, you’ve seen it, as all of their baristas learn the basics of the artful pour. From there, some have been inspired to keep learning and even compete in latte art competitions with other baristas. These events can be anything from party-like, informal after-hours gatherings, called throwdowns, to large, regional and national competitions that offer significant purses, held at convention centers.
Bold Bean barista Christopher McKinnon has competed in both types. While he enjoys competing, McKinnon says he
ultimately sees latte art as simply “the icing on the caffeinated cake” – a part of a larger whole.
“Being a barista means not only serving and preparing delicious coffee and espresso but also representing all the hard work that goes into getting that coffee into your cup,” he says. “Cupping, sourcing, roasting, these are parts of the process most people might not be immediately aware of. When I serve a latte with beautifully poured art, it’s my way of saying thank you to the guys behind the scene.”
Arbus Magazine and Bold Bean hosted a latte art throwdown at Bold Bean’s Avondale roastery and invited some of the area’s most passionate coffee shop owners and baristas. For some, this was their first competition, so beforehand we asked them for thoughts on artistic coffee pouring, competition, and what fuels their creativity (besides, of course, the caffeine).
What is your favorite design that you create?
Justin Hall, owner/roastmaster/barista, Spring Park Coffee, Green Cove Springs: My favorite latte art design is the winged tulip or rosetta. They are both technically challenging and hard to make perfect.
Mike Ricci, barista, BREW Five Points, Riverside: I really love creating a very clean rosetta.
Jess Diebel, barista, Bold Bean, Jacksonville Beach: The rosetta, all the way.
Brandon Hutchingson, barista, Urban Bean, Orange Park: My go-to pour is probably a swan; they look great, and
it’s a fairly quick pour for those busy days.
Christopher McKinnon, barista, Bold Bean, Riverside: The great thing about latte art is the versatility; we all have our unique pouring styles and it really shows. I love to pour beautifully contrasted, delicate, winged tulips.
Will Morgan, owner, Vagabond Coffee Co., Murray Hill: Honestly, it changes. I really enjoy stacking a tulip as much as possible. But I am currently really wanting to nail down a slowsetta.
Chris Campos, manager, Southern Roots Filling Station, Riverside: I’d say my personal favorite design is a rosetta.
What is your favorite design you’ve seen someone else create?
Hall: Any time I see someone pull off a good rosetta or a slowsetta I am envious. The slowsetta is similar to the Rosetta but poured at a slower speed for wider bands of milk foam to form. You have to have good pouring skills.
Ricci: I enjoy Ben Morrow’s three-layered heart tulip.
Diebel: The swan. The flow and movement … it’s very cool to see the image evolve in the cup.
Hutchingson: There are so many people out there who are much better than me. I see pictures of all kinds of pours that just blow my mind.
McKinnon: I’m personally inspired by a lot of Japanese latte artists: [their pours] are meticulously detailed and they really know how to get a lot of art into a relatively small cup.
Campos: I’ve seen other baristas create swans and multiple rosettas. I’m a little envious of them. I also saw a meme of Nicholas Cage’s face on a latte once. I’d totally do that if I could.
Article written by Meredith Tousey Matthews
Photos by Tiffany Manning