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Latte Art

You may be familiar with latte art: It's the very cool way that your barista pours steamed milk into your morning shot of espresso, creating those amazing designs. Some mornings perhaps you get a heart, others a tree, an owl, or a bear. This art form, which actually began back in the 1980s, has come a long way. Today there are competitions for latte art. That's right! It's not just for morning entertainment anymore.

Latte Art Coffee Art Photo: Hiroyuki Takeda

How Latte Art Is Created

To get latte art, the conditions must be just right, and those conditions are very demanding. It's why a barista can oftentimes never repeat a creation twice; the pour is really the challenge.

Basically, it all comes down to science, and chemistry. Latte art combines the crema, or the emulsion of the coffee oil and brewed coffee, along with the foam of the air in milk (also known as microfoam). Because neither of these is stable and both will actually degrade rapidly, the latte art will only last for a few minutes. Alas, the artist's work is fleeting.

Just Right

As Godilocks said, everything must be just right: to get your latte art perfect, you must check that the espresso has a light brown color to its surface. When the white foam from the milk rises to the meet the surface of the espresso shot, this is when your design will emerge. The foam will separate from the liquid and rise to the top as you pour the milk. If you have everything just right, you can create your latte art on the surface. Or, you may choose to create the pattern with a stick after you have poured the milk.

If you are just starting out with latte art, there is a bit more advice out there from the pros. They say that you should also make sure to pour in the center of your cup, especially if you are using a small cup. You can rest your pitcher on the edge of the cup for control; never pour the cup more than 3/4 full when you begin, as you will need to 'shake' the pitcher a bit to give your design a bit of form and you don't want to spill the coffee.

As you continue the shake, you will want to continue to pour into the center of the coffee. Make sure to move slowly, or you will rush your design. Slow and steady wins the race!

And finally, remember that practice makes perfect. Every barista, and every entrant into one of the latte art competitions, will tell you that you simply must practice, practice, practice in order to become good at this art form. Baristas pour literally hundreds of lattes a day, and that's how they get great at this.

The Competitions

Latte art competitions are very real and they are popping up everywhere. These include the U.S. Latte Art Championship, the World Latte Art Championship, and the Coffee Fest Latte Art Championship among others.

Latte Art Championship Latte Art World Championship 2013 Photo: GoToVan

The World Latte Art Championship is the holy grail of latte art competitions. It is one of the most photographed competitions in the World Coffee Events portfolio, and for good reason. Each year, the World Latte Art Championship highlights the creative expression of competitors in this new art form in a competitive platform that challenges them in a demanding performance. They must prepare their coffees, their designs, right before the judges. No pressure!

During the competition, the contestants are judged on their creativity, identical patterns, contrast in patterns, visual attributes and overall performance.

There are three rounds, and contestants are judged on both free pours and patterned drinks. There are time limits as well. /p>

The top scoring barista in the final round is the champion.

Ready to enter your artwork? Start practicing your pours with Gourmesso Coffee for next year's championship!

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