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Zen and the Art of the Latte

Creating art by pouring steamed milk into an Espresso is about as simple as chinese calligraphy... How to excel in this latest art form.

FROM THE COFFEE BARS OF LITTLE ITALY TO THE COFFEE LOUNGES IN SOHO, IF YOU ORDER A CAPPUCCINO, MACCHIATO OR LATTE, YOU ARE LIKELY TO FIND AN ELEGANT IMAGE SET INTO THE WHITE FOAM ON THE SURFACE OF YOUR DRINK. This is latte art, the latest trend in which the uncontested masters are the baristas, those virtuoso coffee barmen who do incredible things with a milk jug. And New York is the Mecca of this new art form.

If you are in the mood for some coffee creativity, all you need is an Espresso with a perfect crema (the canvas), and smooth steamed milk foaming with bubbles (the paint). Then it’s all down to the way you move your wrist when pouring the milk. Of course, you’ll have to start by practicing some picture perfect potatoes or cumulonimbus clouds before wowing your friends with beautiful concentric hearts, faultless ferns and fire-breathing dragons. But persevere. Latte art was not invented in a day! Before coming into its Golden Age in New York, it was developed in Seattle, on the Pacific coast. This is where the heart image was first created around 1980. Ten years later came the rosetta, the stunningly even branch which is the peak of the crema creator’s skill… If this is getting a bit extreme, then maybe it’s time to get back to basics. Remember that the smoothness of the milk foam is first and foremost the key to a perfect taste. The images created by genuine baristas are less works of art than their gourmet signature. Like Zen archery, the real purpose of latte art is about more than just hitting the target. But then, Zen archery is simpler…

Text : Francis Dolric - Illustration : Mac Nooland

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