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Latte Art refers to a method of preparing coffee, created by pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso and resulting in a pattern or design on the surface of the resulting latte. It can also be created or embellished by simply “drawing” in the top layer of foam.
According to an MSNBC article from May 9th, 2003, latte art was popularized by Seattle coffee shop Espresso Vivace owner David Schomer during the 1980s and 1990s. Schomer credits the development of microfoam (“velvet foam” or “milk texturing”) to Jack Kelly of Uptown espresso in 1986, and by 1989 the heart pattern was established and a signature at Schomer’s Espresso Vivace. The rosette pattern was then developed by Schomer in 1992, recreating the technique based on a photograph he saw from Cafe Mateki in Italy.
The two most common forms of poured latte art are a heart shape and the “rosetta” or “rosette” For free pouring, the cup is either kept level or tilted in one direction. As the milk is poured straight into the cup, the foam begins to surface on one side. The barista then moves the pitcher from side to side as they level the cup, or simply wiggle the spout back and forth, and finishes by making a quick strike through the previously poured pattern. This “strike” creates the stem portion of the flower design, and bends the poured zig-zag into a flower shape.
Etched patterns range from simple geometric shapes to complicated drawings, such as crosshatched patterns, animals, and flowers, and are generally performed with a coffee stirrer of some sort. Etched latte art typically has a shorter lifespan than free poured latte art as the foam dissolves into the latte more quickly.