I Met the Father of Latte Art And He Watched Me Make Terrible Espresso

Words by Christiana Catu
Photos by Janus Capili

Listen up, caffeine lovers! Ever wondered how your favorite espressos are prepared? It’s not completely unfamiliar how baristas create those intricate designs on our frothy lattes but there is so much more to latte art than pouring milk in a cup!

Last March 27, 2019, the Equilibrium Intertrade Corporation (EQ) conducted a Latte Art Workshop at the Barista and Coffee Academy of Asia in Greenhills. This was in partnership with Curve Coffee Collaborators, Barista and Coffee Academy of Asia (BCAA), and the Latte Art Grading System (LAGS).

I entered the room with the bittersweet coffee aroma that even non-coffee drinkers come to love enveloping me. As an iced coffee drinker, I stood there without a single clue of how espresso is made, more so how to produce the leafy design baristas create so smoothly and delicately that always leave me awestruck. This was unfamiliar territory made exciting because the class was taught by none other than the Father of Latte Art himself, Luigi Lupi.

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The process of making espresso is basically painting in a cup. Swirling the froth and milk is to espresso as mixing paint is to painting. The grinding and coffee brewing is like outlining, pouring the milk into the cup is making brushstrokes, and the first sip is the first look at your work of art. 

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We were divided into four groups and were taught the Barista Dance which is composed of four steps: grind coffee, brew, steam milk, and design. Using the newest product of EQ, the Rancilio Specialty, we were the first to experience this new espresso machine designed specifically for specialty coffee.

I was given the chance to practice what Luigi discussed during the two-hour talk prior to the actual latte-making activity. And, just my luck, Luigi was there to watch. So I poured and poured, dropped, and pushed carefully, delicately, and finally, that last swift motion, the finishing touch to the all too familiar tulip design and ta-da! No tulip emerged, not even a leaf. I was left with just a sad-looking cup of frothy espresso – plain and undecorated. It was exactly an expectations vs reality meme–so much easier said than done! Luigi stood there confused where all my pouring was headed, literally asking where I was going. Thankfully, he still supported me and let me try again!

After the practice, each team was asked to pick a representative for the competition. Guess who ours was! Of course, it was not me. LOL. Since the workshop was attended by current and former baristas, coffee shop owners, and coffee enthusiasts, all the teams had skilled representatives.

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Four delicious cups of hot, creamy, and delicious cups of espresso sat on the table. Each with a distinct character depending on what they lacked, or what they had in excess. It truly is a delicate art that must be learned painstakingly.

How do you like your coffee? Tell us in the comments!