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Espresso: Latte Art and Etching
Is Latte Art being overdone?
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Discussions > Espresso > Latte Art > Is Latte Art...  
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grumpybarista
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Posted Mon Oct 15, 2012, 1:08pm
Subject: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

As the industry has clasped onto the commercial value of placing a pretty picture, whether hand-poured, etched, or even templated, on the top of the a cup of coffee, a part of me wonders if much of this is done for sheer sexy-ness and if we are diverging from the quality of the drink that the initial free-pouring latte artists were trying to convey in the first place. That is to say, and I believe many 3rd wavers would agree, the emergence of the delicate portraits drawn into the foamy froth on a latte were an indication that the milk was properly converted from stone cold dairy into that warmest of smooth cream. Not too airy. Not too milky. A nice body and just-so firmness that defined the well-built latte.

But then it seemed to be asked: why not a cappuccino? And a macchiatto? Why just the latte? Despite having been trained and taught that each rung of the espresso-to-milk ladder had its own specially weighted and formulated type of froth, suddenly we start seeing art being delivered on almost every espresso drink that leaves the hands of the newly skilled barista champions-in-training. Of course, that's not to say the art isn't pleasing or possible if "properly" done. But my exposure at each new cafe or stand is laden with a heavier importance being laid on the quality of the art, and less on the quality under the art. And this is being underlined by the dissipating regard for the quality of the froth for that drink type. Instead of getting a macchiatto, you're now getting a miniature latte, but with the same base of espresso, for example.

Is this right? Am I mis-construing the evidence? Does anyone else out there feel this way?

 
Phil

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ShooterMcGavin
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Posted Mon Oct 15, 2012, 5:16pm
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

Latte art isn't very easy to produce, and when done, also implies that the barista has been making lattes for a good amount of time.

At the same time, coffee is as much a business as it is an art, and presentation can definitely sway a customer's impression.  I assume that's why art is being done on every drink that involves milk nowadays, so I see what you're saying.  Sometimes when I order a cappuccino, I want a traditional cappuccino where there is just as much steamed milk in there as there is milk foam (and not a miniature latte as you mentioned).  But I feel the business side of things dictate what cappuccino or macchiatto should be, etc...

 
Daviiid
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grumpybarista
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grumpybarista
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Posted Tue Oct 16, 2012, 7:27am
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

I certainly agree that producing latte art is a skill that takes time and repetition. I'm mostly referring to the homogenization of the froth to fit the art, and not the order. Yes, it is a business. But to me the business is defined by the product. Small-Medium-Large does not equal Macchiatto-Cappuccino-Latte to me.

Don't get me wrong. I fully understand that the vast population is not like me (or many of us CGs?) when it comes to the finer points of espresso drinks. I realize that most people are impressed with a picture and deem it a sign of quality (and they are not very far off). I'm thrilled that these days in the USA we are getting greater exposure to the purer side of the product with each new day. But I also feel that the "control group" for lack of a better way of stating it, should be held to a higher standard. Those cafes that dedicate themselves to delivering the best possible extraction and using the highest quality beans and machines and barista training should continue to strive for that elusive perfection.

I wonder if there is a high-end cafe out there that eschews the practice of the latte art, and simply provides well-built, high quality drinks. No gimmicks. No smoke and mirrors. Just a good cup of coffee.

It's a sharp edge between ideality and the bottom line, to be sure.
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xeonsamari
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xeonsamari
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Posted Tue Oct 16, 2012, 7:43am
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

As a Barista trainer at our cafe and a judge at the Canadian regional and national barista competition this year, I teach my "students" if you will the art of making good coffee first. Later when they have proved to make me a good cup will I teach them how to have fun with their drinks and make art. They will have already been making the nice foam, but latte art allows them to develop their own style and makes coffee more than just a job. Last year I stopped into a nice little cafe that someone had dumped tones of money into. Nice equipment, clean, nice atmosphere and friendly staff. I ordered a latte and was served a respectable looking drink with a nice balanced rosetta on top. I noticed however the shot put in my drink pulled in 10 seconds (I counted). I held my tongue and had a taste. It looked beautiful and the barista was quite proud of it but it was by far the most vial drink I have ever tasted. Being a nice guy I suggested to the barista that they fix their grind and slow down the pour. She looked at me as though I had two heads. Not sure why the training focus was on art and not taste is beyond me. So for me good drink first then fancy art I will take a good tasting latte over a pretty one any day lol
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grumpybarista
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grumpybarista
Joined: 19 Feb 2007
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Location: Detroit
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Posted Tue Oct 16, 2012, 7:55am
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

That's exactly what I'm talking about. Thanks for putting true craftsmanship over a cover-up paint job, xeonsamari.

 
Phil

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xeonsamari
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xeonsamari
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Posted Tue Oct 16, 2012, 8:11am
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

I always think would I drink that and that's how all barista's should think but sadly don't
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ShooterMcGavin
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Posted Tue Oct 16, 2012, 5:40pm
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

a practice i've been doing with my doubles lately is: use 1 shot to practice art in a small ~4oz gibraltar, and use the 2nd shot to taste on its own and make adjustments

 
Daviiid
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andys
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andys
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Posted Tue Oct 16, 2012, 7:18pm
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

grumpybarista Said:

Does anyone else out there feel this way?

Posted October 15, 2012 link

Actually, a movement to emphasize the coffee and de-emphasize the latte art has been underway for years.

 
-AndyS
picture page:  http://flickr.com/photos/andy_s/sets/
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JohnLyn
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JohnLyn
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Posted Tue Oct 16, 2012, 11:54pm
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

As a consumer who enjoys good coffee, I think that what I consider to be a good cafe is usually combining both excellent drinks and latte art.  I to have the practice of ordering a straight shot and a cap. I love caps, but it is in the straight shot that I discern the quality that will bring me back to the shop or not.

And thank you for the distinction between a cappuccino and a 5 ounce latte. I appreciate the building of a proper cap, but I prefer a 5 ounce latte (yes, with the art, I really enjoy doing it). So out of respect for tradition I will start calling them 5 ounce lattes....
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NobbyR
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Posted Wed Oct 17, 2012, 12:12am
Subject: Re: Is Latte Art being overdone?
 

JohnLyn Said:

... what I consider to be a good cafe is usually combining both excellent drinks and latte art ...

Posted October 16, 2012 link

I disagree, because taste comes first and above all. Latte art is only a nice gimmick, an eye catcher that doesn't contribute to the quality of the drink. That doesn't keep me from appreciating a beautiful presentation of my latte.

 
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"This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
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