Latte Art mania

From how-to videos to photos of true masterpieces, the craze of decorating cappuccinos is gaining millions of followers on the web

Millions of views. Tens of millions of likes. Latte Art is racking up numbers any star would be proud of as it takes the artisan food scene by storm.
There are courses, contests and workshops defining the science and techniques behind Latte Art, but ultimately it is the consumer that gets to rate how good each effort is. You see, being handed a work of art when all you’ve asked for is a cappuccino elicits not only a sense of gratitude and admiration, but also – and above all – a desire to figure out how the barista has produced such a creation. By frothing, pouring and designing, would be the short answer. But while it might seem simple, it’s not – a quick look at the thousands of videos on the web, which have been downloaded and discussed by people the world over, will tell you that.
Latte Art is an international phenomenon which appears to have been sparked by one video. In the early 1980s, a Verona-born barista by the name of Pierangelo Merlo discovered – while making one of many cappuccinos – that it was possible to create shapes similar to hearts, leaves and apples by pouring frothed milk onto the surface of espresso coffee. This art was noticed by an American tourist, David Schomer, who – impressed – set up his camera and asked Merlo to prepare another cup so he could film the action. On his return to Seattle, Schomer studied the barista’s movements and started to serve milk-based drinks with designs on the top at his own establishment. The interest was huge.

 

The spread of Latte Art

Soon, that interest gave way to passion, expanding like frothed milk thanks to the internet. On YouTube, there are nearly one million videos on the subject, ranging from simple, slow-motion tutorials to ultra-sophisticated 3D clips.
One of the simplest is barista Dritan Alsela’s slow-motion technique clips, which have racked up thousands of views, while Umpoul uses a delicate touch – and a tiny paintbrush – to create the faces of different animals on the surface of the milk.

Ask any barista why they love their job and they’ll respond by creating one of hundreds of possibilities using nothing but a frothing jug, brush and maybe a few toppings. The potential designs really are splendid, ranging from a rabbit’s face to a graceful angel.

Ask any barista why they love their job and they’ll respond by creating one of hundreds of possibilities using nothing but a frothing jug, brush and maybe a few toppings. The potential designs really are splendid, ranging from a rabbit’s face to a graceful angel.

There are many videos which reveal the secrets of Latte Art, some highly certified such as those shown at MUMAC Academy. On the internet, it’s amazing to see the range of masterpieces people can create, including 3D representations of animals such as lions, pandas, cats and sleeping bears, all of which look so soft you just want to stick your nose right in! A great example of this is the stunning cappuccino served at the Tapateria El Secreto in Malaga, where the skill on show is hypnotic in its apparent simplicity.

 

Delicious designs

If you go the whole hog and delve into the never-ending world of Instagram or Pinterest, the humble cappuccino becomes a kaleidoscope of creativity. Use the #latteart hashtag to access millions of examples, from the cutest kitty cat imaginable to Einstein’s formulas, Cinderella, Darth Vader, Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and leaves in all shapes and sizes. Latte Art is a fully fledged fashion trend, such is the art that goes into the technique. Yet nowadays anyone can achieve impressive results using simple stencils in a range of wonderful shapes: footsteps, Pokemon, hearts with arrows shooting through them, phrases like “I’m pregnant”, sporting icons, animals, all manner of cartoons, signs of the zodiac and even steaming mugs – a reminder that beneath the milk, there should always be a great espresso!