Confessions of a Specialty Barista #2: Good coffee first, latte art second please.


Working in both the blogosphere and specialty coffee industry I don't go even a day usually without seeing extravagantly decorated lattes in my face. There's swans left right and centre, as well as a constant race to try and put as many 'layers' as possible on their tulip's flat white. However, more often than none I'm left sipping what is a relatively mediocre cup of 'specialty' coffee and thinking...when did espresso theory start to come second to making instagram-friendly coffee art?

Now, don't get me wrong - I really do appreciate a good cup of coffee adorned with a silky smooth pattern on top. I always say to the budding baristas I train that if you learn how to steam milk well, latte art will basically come naturally to you (especially hearts, they're almost simply the way steamed milk forms naturally on top of espresso if i'm completely honest).

I don't want to be controversial, I really don't, but I love nothing more than a simple heart on top of my espresso and milk combination to show that the barista cares (extra points if they're attractive so I can daydream that they're super in love with me and are trying to communicate in latte art code to confess their emotions). It looks great to look at, it takes no time at all (thus speeding up the entire process of making drinks), and also shows that the barista knows what they are doing. Also, to me, I think a simple heart looks the most attractive in photos, but hey ho - that's a personal opinion.

Now don't get me wrong, latte art is wonderful. Super wonderful. I take my hats off to all baristas who know the tricks of the trade. However, I feel that there's been this huge shift from learning espresso theory and dialling in and perfecting a balanced flavour, to just making sure your coffee looks good enough to take a photo of. As I like to say, a coffee may look pretty but could taste disgusting, but can look disgusting but taste gorgeous. I know which one I would go for.

I still wish for a level of quality to be maintained - I'm not shunning latte art altogether as this is one of the ways by which a coffee shop can charge more for their products. But I'm just writing to re-emphasise my point made on many occasions within coffee shops that latte art is only one piece of a much larger equation in regards to an exceptional cup of coffee.

For the last time, I would like to stress that this isn't a moan, and i'm definitely not trying to speak negatively in my blog as I don't like to think that is what my website is about. However, I do believe that this is becoming a growing trend amongst lower-end/newer specialty coffee shops who feel that unless they did a triple swan eating a strawberry with a hippo dancing on top of it then they'll miss out on a customer base.

And to be quite frank, if that is a customer base then I wouldn't recommend you'd want them in your shop anyway...! ;)

Have a good one boys and girls, here's to the new week ahead!

#coffee #latte #latteart #barista #londoncoffee #specialtycoffee #thirdwavecoffee #thirdwave #london #coffeeart #rosetta

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