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A Latte Talk About Art 

By Lauren Miller

If you go to a coffee shop and order a latte, you might notice an intricate, unique pattern on top of your drink. What you’re seeing is a skill that is beloved by baristas around the world: latte art.

Latte art is seen in coffee shops of all sorts, and all over social media. It involves pouring hot steamed milk into a shot of espresso. How the milk is poured - sporadically, on different sides, or all at once - determines the pattern that the latte will have.  

As popular as latte art is, it is not an ancient practice. In fact, it has only been around for a couple decades. In the US, latte art originated in Seattle, Washington in the 1980’s. David Schomer later helped initiate a movement around the practice in 1995, when he wrote a book titled “Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques.” 

There are several ways to create latte art. The first and most popular is free pour. This technique requires the barista to pour milk onto the coffee at specific heights and for specific durations, which creates designs in the drink. 

Etching, another form of latte art, requires a different type of pour. The milk and coffee are more clearly separated, and an etching pen is dragged through the liquid to create a design. 

Specialized Printers have been created to ‘press’ intricate latte art on top of lattes. These can transfer logos, words, and even photos onto the latte’s surface.

Clearly there are plenty of ways to create latte art, but two designs in particular stand out from the rest. The first is the rosetta, a design that requires timely pours to create a leaf-like pattern. The second is the heart, which utilizes a large pour that drags through the milk at the end to give it a heart shape. 

Some baristas like to put their latte art skills to the test, so it’s no surprise that competitive latte pouring is a practice in these communities. The World Latte Art Championships are  one such event hosted every year. During this event, artists from all over the world compete in multiple rounds of competition. This year’s championship will be held in Warsaw, Poland from June 18 through 20. 

If you want to try your hand at creating latte art, you will only need a few things. A pitcher, a cup, some properly steamed milk, and a few shots of espresso is more than enough to get you started. Tutorials on how to make latte art can be found online, and there’s plenty of inspiration to be had on social media. Plus, even if it doesn’t look perfect, it will still be a great cup of coffee.

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