Words by Matthew Mendiola
Photos by Ian Esteves
Do you remember that scene in the Green Hornet where Kato showed Seth Rogen how he free pours a leaf design on coffee like it’s just a piece of cake? Well, I can tell you now that latte art isn’t as easy as how Kato makes it look, but it sure is fun.
I recently attended a two-part barista class held at Martin Place Social. The first part focused on the science of coffee, where senior trainer Dave Dource of Barista Guild Asia discussed the different kinds of beans and their distinctive flavors, brewing methods, and other technical aspects about coffee, while the second class focused on the A R T.
Latte art isn’t as simple as pouring. As Dource explained, when doing latte art, you should think of it as painting on canvas, only more challenging. Dource and his colleagues demonstrated the rigorous process involved in creating the perfect cup.
1. The base: espresso.
It begins with the espresso base. Operating an espresso machine is an art in itself. Before you feed the coffee grind into the machine, you have to use your fingers to gently press on the grinds and make sure that there aren’t any air pockets left. Afterwards, you have to flex your muscles and exert around 50 pounds of brute-force using a tamper to push down on the coffee grinds. Only then can you begin the extraction.
You can either brew a doppio, which simply means two espresso shots in one cup, or a ristretto, which is a more concentrated espresso extraction. This will then serve as the coffee base. The point is, it’s not enough to focus on the aesthetics of the foam design. Everything has to be done properly from the beginning.
2. Preparing the microfoam.
Once you have the espresso base, the next step is to prepare the canvas—the microfoam. Just like the espresso, creating the foam requires a lot of conditions to be met. For the demonstration, Dource used imported homogenized milk because only good quality milk with high fat content would suffice to create the perfect froth. Then, you steam the milk by immersing the espresso machine’s steam nozzle at an angle, close to the bottom of the milk jug. You’d know you’re doing it right if you hear a light hiss, and if the milk gets hot but still bearable to touch. The end result should be foam with tiny bubbles that is consistent throughout.
Dource’s latte art designs
3. Designing your latte.
Once you have a good shot and good foam, you can begin with the fun part. Dource demonstrated four latte art designs—three by free pour and one by etching, which involves using a stirrer to draw on the foam. Having officially been in the trade for around eight years, Dource basically pulled off a Kato, creating a heart, a rosetta (Kato’s fern), a hibiscus flower, and even a swan! All this in a matter of minutes, without even breaking a sweat.
After Dource demonstrated some really cool acts of coffee sorcery, it was our turn to try it. I surprised myself with my first attempt at etching a hibiscus. It looked pretty good (for my standards at least). I was so happy with my first creation that I felt bold enough to try a free pour design. I wanted to do the rosetta, a la Kato, but unfortunately, my fern ended up looking more like a wavy blob monster. Well, I guess I can call it abstract art?
To be a barista requires skill. I’m not an avid coffee drinker myself, but my experience at Martin’s Place Social gave me a newfound appreciation of the science and art that is coffee. While I probably won’t be as good as Kato or Dave Dource, at the very least I can impress my future date with my being a man of culture when it comes to all things coffee.
This barista class is sponsored by Breville, the world-renowned Australian brand of innovative kitchen appliances. Learn more about Breville here: https://www.breville.com.ph/
Martin Place Social
The Plaza, Arya Residences, McKinkey Parkway, 8th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City
Barista Guild Asia
Contact: +63 9273398030