Milk. An ingredient so common, so usual, so simple (or at least it seems to be). A perfect match for coffee, the best possible companion. Just hear me whispering to you ear “cappuccino”, “flat white” – and you are already imagining you morning treat. Silky shiny foam, undisturbed surface, rosetta on top. Something so simple – and so hard to achieve. Let’s talk milk?
Or, better said, milk foaming. Latte Art Basics workshop is one of the most popular workshops that I give here in Portugal – and the one that taught me a lot. Mostly about people’s expectations.
The thing is that before you even attempt to pour a heart or a rosetta, you need to foam the milk right. To create the right amount of foam, and incorporate it well throughout the milk, stabilize it. The problem here is that milk is considered to be such a familiar, easy, well studied ingredient – simply because baristas are dealing with it on a daily basis – that it is hard to accept that, first, you have been doing it wrong all that time, and second, learning milk foaming and latte art takes time.
You won’t get out of the latte art class making inverted tulip or rosetta after 2 hours of practice, if you entered without the skill of proper milk foaming. As simple as that. There are no miracles here, just hard work and lots of conscious repetition and awareness. Which means foaming each milk consciously and fully awake, understanding why you are making every single move and why.
That’s why latte art is a quite popular thing that people ask as a workshop – but the expectations are pretty unrealistic.
If it were me, I would be saying that Latte Art, if taught seriously and from scratch, has to be taught in a 3 day (5 hour per day) course, minimum. One day simply foaming the milk for different drinks, getting more and more control over it, and getting to know your machine and the steamer you are working with. Other day simply training the pour, learning to hold the cup and the pitcher. Third day – training pouring a heart and a rosetta. And it actually will take much more time than that, to learn – so it is not enough to do the course once, but absolutely necessary to practice every single day.
And something that I learned is that the success of such a workshop lies almost utterly in a motivation of the people taking the course. How much effort they are ready to give, how concentrated they are ready to be, do they know for sure why they are training it – or it is something that they consider simply unnecessary (and yes, it happens).
Because a trainer can explain, and show, and correct, and do it again and again – but what he cannot do is to do it all for the trainee. It has to be him. It has to be a person who is training to foam all those liters of milk, knowing that it is difficult and takes effort – and it is the only way to succeed.
I love latte art because it shows the effort, there is a direct and visible connection between the time spend training and the result in a cup. Yes, it is not mandatory and not the most important thing in coffee – but you like being served beautiful dishes, don’t you? Our satisfaction starts with what we see – and in coffee it means that the satisfaction of your customer starts with latte art, starts with how the coffee is “plated”. Don’t miss an opportunity to impress.
Beautiful coffees to all of you!