How do I get started doing latte art?
– Abby Singh, Owner, Canteen 900, Forty Fort, PA
Latte art, making art with steamed milk and coffee in lattes, cappuccinos, and other coffee drinks, is becoming popular worldwide, with many devotees of the craft, competitions and classes popping up.
Like many baristas, Mike Pechter, barista at Joe Coffee in Philadelphia, learned on the job from senior coworkers. “We are trained one-on-one to do latte art. The purpose of it is not just the aesthetic, its also to make sure we have the milk consistency and that we’ve integrated it with the espresso properly. So we can tell, for instance, ‘Oops I made a cappuccino instead of a latte,’ or ‘My milk is too thin, there's not enough foam on top of it’. Or you can tell the quality of the espresso by how it’s mixed. All of those things are brought out in latte art. Then we make it into a design which is actually pretty simple. The milk does most of the work for you. Its spilling out so you just have to wiggle back and forth. Since the milk is pushing itself around, it’s going to arrange itself in a nice pattern. All you have to do to get the most difficult stuff is stop pouring and start pouring in a new spot.”
If you don’t have the benefit of an experienced latte artist on staff, there are a few ways to go. Consider bringing in a barista you admire to do a staff training. If it is someone from another city, rather than a direct competitor, you won’t be accused of poaching the competition. Use your vendor as a resource as well. For example, Counter Culture Coffee has training centers in eight east coast cities and offers free classes and training to wholesale customers. Finally, industry trade shows like Coffee Fest offer classes. Sending staff to training at a show can be a great perk to offer a top performer or an employee you would like to develop.