From the aesthetic flower that decorates the extracted espresso shot, to the blob that drowns the surface of the cup in an endless ocean of white foam, each contributing to the bitter-sweet first sip of coffee.
While some believe that there is a formula involved in the process of producing, or should I say, pouring the Mona Lisa that accompanies your cappuccino or latte, the end result stands to prove that there are variables that affect the precision of the pretty or ”abstract” picture seen when the drink is served.
I can certainly ramble on about how the temperature and quality of milk affects your drink, but as most can agree, one of the single most important variables affecting the quality of the latte art seen when your drink is served, remains to be the amount of air allowed into the jug when the steaming process is initiated. The psshhhhhhhhh pssh psshhhhhh noise that some of you might recognize, is the culprit to the extremely thick milk that accompanies your drink. While some drinks might be too thin (in terms of foam to milk ratio – appearing similar to instant cappuccino’s) giving off the psh sound for little under 5 seconds, accompanied by either a screeching sound, worse than those experienced when you drive past a One Direction concert or a somewhat silent sound – usually experienced baristas fall in this department, as they engage in the ”whirlpool” process too early. Drinks that follow this recipe will appear to be grainy and disintegrated – not a taste that leaves your palate jumping for joy.
The real question to address is; does latte art matter?
As mentioned earlier, one can deduce that latte art does, in certain areas, affect the quality of the drink. In most cases, milk that is steamed well generally leads to decent latte art -but who knows, the barista might not have the flick of the wrist – but that shouldn’t affect the quality of the drink too much. The presentation of a drink shouldn’t concern the drinker too much, but we are human and it does. You might ask the question, ”then what should I concern myself with?”
Be concerned with the quality of the steamed milk. Well steamed milk is silky, very smooth and doesn’t send your throat to the middle of the sun . Most barista’s are taught to steam milk so that it looks like paint; glossy and consistent – keep this in mind when you’re on your pursuit for the perfect cappuccino or latte. Presentation is important, but have some grace for that guy behind the counter – he is more than likely tired of listening to the same playlist for the 3rd day in a row, or he is simply not at his best – after all, we can’t be superheroes all the time.
So next time you order your drink, ask yourself the question: do I want pretty or do I want quality?