In 2008, I started working as a barista at a local coffeehouse close to 17th avenue. The first step was to learn to pour a perfect espresso.
The best part of the espresso lies in the crema – a darker colored cream like syrup that rises to the top of an espresso shot. This cream breaks down quickly – its sweetness disappears as the cream dissipates. So, the more crema that is kept, the better chances that I have of making a clear, artsy, and delicious latte.
Next, I learned to create micro bubble milk foam. It looks just like milk, but much thicker – none of that bubbly, have to scoop out the top layer to get to the “good stuff” crap. I had to keep the milk smooth and shiny all through the entire steaming process.
After many wasted lattes, I finally was able to pour my first latte art – a sad looking rosetta. Pouring hearts was easy, but I was persistent with trying to pour perfect rosettas. Eventually, I knew my talents could be expanded elsewhere. So, I started turning my rosettas into bunnies, using the tip of the milk thermometer to draw in eyes and whiskers.
Winter rolled around and my latte art changed from spring bunnies to Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns to Snowmen.
One day, I was ordering a latte from a fellow barista and watched him cheat at making a rosetta. He poured a funky, wobbly oval and used the end of a thermometer to pull in the crema to create the leaves. Then something clicked inside of my brain – this coffee etching could be put to better use, rather than faking great pouring talent. My coffee etching skills and passion exploded from there.
From 2012 and onward, I fill my social media feeds with so many different kinds of coffee etches. I drew pokemon, Darth Vader, kitty cats, company logos, video game characters, Anime characters, and even Grumpy cat! The latte art started off blocky and very basic looking, but as I experimented with different tools, my art become more detailed, incorporating different sized lines and shading.
My tools over the years included knives, chopsticks, toothpicks, skewers, thermometers, and nail art tools. Not once did I cheat and use a stencil of any kind to create food art. Everything was hand drawn and shaded with a mix of milk foam and crema – I’m a coffee etching purist.
Nowadays, my favourite tools are steak knives and nail art tools. They provide me with the best visible lines and shading uses. For me, the fun lies in the race against of time.
The latte surface and flavour breaks down quickly over time. So, my art becomes blurrier and starts to sink, if I’m too slow. The designs usually take less than 5 minutes to complete. After 5 minutes, the art is more difficult to distinguish, but …. ugh, it’s just so fun to make, and the best reward is drinking it up!
Even better – when I make a cup of latte for someone else and he/she don’t expect to see such art in the cup, I get the biggest of all smiles and “wow” is usually the first word that pops out before he/she takes a sip! Then another “wow” pops out!