|Getting a heart or rosetta on top of your latte is standard when you're at a cafe that has some of the best coffee in Seattle. You may wonder why baristas go through the trouble, and whether the drink will taste any better because of the design. The answer to that is both yes and no; let's take a closer look.
Baristas like to pour latte art for two reasons: It showcases their skill, and it delights customers. To be able to work in latte art, milk must be properly steamed to "microfoam". Air must be introduced into the milk in a very controlled manner, or else large bubbles will appear, rather than the desired velvety foam. Also, the espresso must be properly extracted, so that it has a creamy brown surface, an emulsion known as crema. The milk must then be poured onto the espresso immediately, before the foam separates from the rest of the milk. It makes a barista's day when a customer says, "This is too pretty to drink!" In short, latte art can be a sign that you're having some of the best coffee in Seattle.
Latte art actually has a rich history in Seattle coffee. David Schomer, of Espresso Vivace, developed the heart in 1989 and the rosetta in 1992, then went on to author books and teach classes to baristas eager to reproduce these patterns. Baristas, proving to be artistic artisans, took it from there, combining the patterns in new ways, and creating designs like the swan, dragon, and the triple rosetta. Taking it to the next level, they began competing in latte art competitions around the world.
However, some baristas would say that latte art is not the only focus when creating the best coffee in Seattle. When a barista is first learning to make a latte, he should also focus on steaming milk to the proper temperature, and making sure that there is a proper balance between milk and espresso (ie shot is not too long or too short). While those are certainly important points to remember, all agree that when you see latte art on a drink, you are at least assured that the barista knows how to properly steam milk.
Baristas at larger chains lament that they do not have the proper equipment to pour latte art, either that their pitchers are too big, or have the wrong spout, or that their espresso machines do not produce the proper foam. There have even been reports of coffee companies with policies against latte art, afraid that the slightly slower pour could increase wait times. We would argue that for the best coffee in Seattle, you should look to smaller shops like Trabant, which not only allow but encourage latte art. In fact, we provide around three months of training to baristas before they are even allowed to make drinks for customers.
At the end of the day, the proof is in the cup. We encourage you to go out and see for yourself if latte art can be a sign of the best coffee in Seattle.
Tatiana Becker is the founder and owner of Trabant Coffee ( http://trabantcoffee.com/ ), a well-known coffee shop with two locations in Seattle. She opened the first Trabant 10 years ago, while working in technology, feeling that the world needs less devices, and more community. Her entrepreneurial bug has grown even stronger, and today she is working on a coffee-related ecommerce startup. Her hobbies include writing, traveling, and obstacle-course racing.
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