Coffee is most definitely a form of art on its own. Many people don’t realize it, but there is a form of artistic expression in coffee that one can subtly pick up on. This is what makes coffee so beautiful. Really anything that requires a certain amount of artistic thinking, patience, and skill becomes a form of art and making coffee is no exception to that rule. Think about the baristas that skillfully measure and put together a myriad of ingredients in a way that has new types of flavors and tastes bursting on your tongue. On top of that you cannot forget how they work and practice to give you beautiful foam art on your delicious cappuccinos and lattes so that you can smile a little bit before starting off your day before work, school, errands, or even relaxation. Today we are going to take the time to appreciate and say thank you to all the beauty and expression that a cup of coffee gives to the world.
What Makes Coffee an Art?
To many practical people, many would argue that coffee making cannot be considered a form of art in any way. Simply because society and our rules has placed art as something related to painting, music, literature, or dance. No one ever uses the term art when referring to things such as coffee making or even cooking. Why our society chooses to do this? I am not entirely sure, but coffee making redefines the parameters of artistic expression, pushing the boundaries of art to be beyond what you see and what you hear. Art should be able to attack all the senses, meaning smell and taste as well. The whole purpose of art is to evoke emotions within someone through the use of another person’s application of skill and imagination. This is exactly what coffee does. Through the skill of coffee making, one is able to make a cup of coffee each suited for a myriad of individual taste and preferences while evoking emotion in that person through the taste of coffee and the aroma of coffee. I mean without a doubt does coffee evoke something in us. We feel happy, relaxed, and energized. Being able to bask in the flavors that coffee can bring makes us appreciative and happy of this powerful drink and if that isn’t art then I don’t know what is. Add in the beautiful foam art that graces cappuccinos and lattes, and one can easily see how coffee is truly an art form of its own.
The Beauty of Foam Art
As stated before coffee is truly an exquisite form of expression from barista to customer. You may look at these little pieces of art and see them as childsplay, something that can has no deep metaphorical or philosophical value to it and therefore is not art (at least not serious art), but society should understand that art doesn’t always have to be symbolic and deep. It can be simple and make you feel elated or sad. The mere fact of using the skills of latte art to evoke emotions within customers, means that coffee is by all means an art that should be appreciated as well. I mean it is beautiful that we can see something visually appealing, smell how appealing it is, and then taste it as well. We use all three of our senses to appreciate coffee for what it is and all that it does for us. On top of that, think of the serious skill it takes to create the art that appears in your cup. It is no walk in the park and it takes some serious imagination to come up with something so simple yet visually appealing and photograph worthy. I mean if you think it is easy to get that simple rosetta on coffee then by all means impress us away, but you will find that when you actually try it, it is a lot harder than it looks!
The Skill of Latte Art
For starters you could see latte art and coffee as an art simply because you don’t practice by watching or reading about it. You can only really achieve the skill through doing it over and over again. Think of dancing, painting, sculpting, writing or producing a song, crafting a story, and so on. Do you think people who becomes professionals at this became professionals through reading about it? No! What makes these a form of art is the level of practice, imagination, and motivation that you need to have in order to perfect these skills. You have to do it on your own in order to get it right and foam art is no exception to this rule. You need a level of patience, a calm attitude, a bit of an imagination, and practice to create those foamtastic artistry that you see decorating the hot coffee. You also have to be skilled and understanding of the do’s and don’ts to getting the right visuals on the cup. Similar to how artists know the right colors to paint a fiery sunset, or how a ballet dancer knows the right speed to do a pirouette, or how a song producer knows the right keys to creating a sad melody. You need to have the skill or learn the skill before you can create the art and the same can be said about latte art. Check out these hard tips that will make you realize just how skillful baristas have to be with their coffee!
They Know the Milk Needs to Be Silky and Smooth
The first fact a barista needs to know before they can become a coffee artist of their own, is that it all boils down to the milk. The latte art is formed over the steamed milk. If the base of the latte art (the steamed milk) is not up to standards then you can expect a wonky looking piece of work. To first master this art, you must achieve optimal milk that is both silky and smooth enough to provide the canvas of your work. To do this you must position the wand of the steamer correctly. You need to place your wand in the middle of the pitcher of milk and tilt the pitcher in such a way that wand is a third of the way of the side of the pitcher. This means you need to tilt it at a very little degree. Only then can you expect a huge whirlpool of milk around your wand which is exactly what you want! In addition to that you have to make sure that there is the right amount of air in your milk. If you hear a sucking sound once the steamer is on then you are doing well. If you do not, then this signals to you that you must tilt your pitcher lower until you do! If your milk does not create the right amount of foam, then you can forget about crafting the correct masterpiece! Baristas also need to keep temperature in mind before they begin their creations. Steamed milk should hold the perfect temperature of about 55-62 degrees Celsius. Do not go below 50 degrees (unless you want your customers to dislike you) and don’t go over 70 degrees (no one enjoys burning their tongue in the name of coffee).
Contrast is Very Important
This is where you start to see the art knowledge aspect being applied to latte art. Baristas know that the milk has contrast perfectly against the coffee. If they do not contrast well with one another then your art latte becomes muddled within the coffee, creating a sort of mess that no one will be able to distinguish. To cancel this out, baristas have to understand and be sure that when pouring the milk over the coffee, that they do it in such a way that the milk goes through the crema. They have to angle their hands at a certain height and pour directly in the middle of the cup while moving their hands in such a way that the art is being made well and contrasts perfectly against the dark brown coffee. Failure to know the proper height, the correct angle of your hand, the correct speed at which to pour the coffee, and more can cause the art to be disproportionate. This part of latte art makes you understand how much practice and skill must really go into coffee making and art.
Angles are Everything
The barista must also take into account the angles they are working with when it comes to creating the right symbol. You have to tilt the cup in a certain direction in which the coffee isn’t spilling, but the cup is also not standing in a straight direction to the point that your pattern does not come out looking properly. If you do end up keeping the cup straight, you will run into the issue of not having as much control over the art aspect of the coffee. Coffee makers also have to consider the correct position or most comfortable position that allows them to produce the best results. Learning the most comfortable position to hold the cup of coffee and the steamed milk takes a lot of practice and that is some hard work on its own as well!
The Art Behind the Perfect Cup of Joe
As stated before, creating the perfect cup of coffee will be different for everyone. Everyone has differing opinions on how strong or sweet coffee should taste, how creamy it should be, whether it should be hot or iced, etc. Coffee is not simply made by throwing some coffee beans and water together and topping it off with some milk and sweetener. You do that and you realize that you made yourself a steaming pile of watery bitterness. There is a science behind coffee that turns coffee into something so beautiful for everyone to enjoy. Baristas and coffee makers use coffee ingredients like it is paint for a painter. They wove the magic into a single cup of coffee like a painter puts together a painting on a canvas. Both need to have imagination to go beyond the normal and make their product stand out from the rest. Both must be skilled enough to understand the correct amount of materials needed to create something different that will appeal to many and be original. Similar to a painter who knows just the right amount of pink to put in a sunset, a barista must know the right amount of coffee beans, milk, syrup, sweetener, etc. to put into their coffee to create the perfect harmony of ingredients that produce an outstanding taste that customers will enjoy! With this being said coffee making is truly an art form of its own and even though many would not regard it as being a part of the traditional forms of art, the amount of skill, level of imagination, and intense patience and practice to produce something worthy, is what makes coffee making an artistic form of expression that is truly one to be recognized and appreciated. So, hats off to all the baristas out there who work hard to produce a cup of coffee that is original and something of its own. These people seriously do not get as much credit as they should! They practice hard, using their imagination to think outside of the box, and perfecting their knowledge behind the science of coffee so that they can give you a cup of joe experience that is like no other. The next time you decide to make a pit stop for some coffee at your local shop, send a statement of gratitude to the people working hard to satisfy your taste buds and help you start your busy days with a smile on your face. Smell the coffee, taste the coffee, and appreciate the coffee artists who are happy to use their skills and passion to make their customers happy even on the hardest of days!