Latte Art: Pouring Delicate Patterns Into Your Coffee Mug

When cafés around the world opened their doors to seating customers after the long pandemic freeze, it was the warmth of coffee mugs and big breakfasts that caught on the first. How not to feel cheered up by a cup of latte with a happy face drawn on top of it! The nimble skills of turning coffee into a craft and foam into an art form are what baristas associate themselves with. Yes, we are talking about latte art here. A widely popular practice around the world, artists use coffee cups as a canvas to swirl mini masterpieces into the froth on top. Be it an intricate fern, a cute heart or the quintessential smiley - perky patterns are adding cheer to your daily dose of the hot beverage. 

“The first interaction in a café is always through latte art,” says Geetu Mohnani, independent coffee consultant and café curator. According to her, because of the dominant tea-drinking culture in Delhi and Mumbai, latte art is more popular in these cities. “Coffee is usually not the first drink of the day in these places. It’s consumed mostly when they visit cafés and restaurants. Hence, they like it a little fancy. On the other hand, in cities like Bengaluru and Chennai, filter coffee is a staple beverage in every household. It’s the authentic taste of the coffee that matters to them more than the art on top of it,” she explains. 

Needless to say, latte art is age group focussed and more about its visual appeal than the taste. “The young crowd lounging in cafés are interested in taking pictures of their creative coffee mugs to put up on Instagram, while many are also seen taking videos of the process behind. That said, compared with other countries, training in latte art is still very niche in India. To cover the deficit, a lot of establishments are now investing in machines to do the job of creating latte art for them,” Geetu elaborates. 

Of Panache And A Lot Of Patience

Thought latte art is easy? Not really. These creamy creations demand a lot of patience and panache. The art form mainly comprises two stages - first, free pouring, in which beautiful patterns are made while pouring smooth milk into the cup; and second, etching, where the artist uses tools like the bamboo skewer to make decorative frothed designs. And then, there is 3D latte art too, which has whipped up a fresh look into this craft. Picture this: a mug of cappuccino topped with a dollop of micro-foam in the shape of a cute bunny popping its head out reaches your table. Tempting, right! While creating miniature 3D patterns replicating hedgehogs, kittens, giraffes, bunnies and grapes onto the surface of the cup, toothpicks and spoons often come in handy. If you are trying latte art at home, pick a pitcher with a pointed spout. Proper understanding of pace, proximity and position are important, with good quality coffee and milk, of course. Baristas taking part in latte art championships are usually evaluated on the basis of their artistic expression, visual attributes, creativity and on-demand performance.

Drama In The Cup 

When talking of traditional floral patterns, the rosetta cannot be missed. Many also still love the favourite heart pattern, while the tulip is often termed a tricky modification of the heart-shaped design. But if you are among those who prefer a bit more drama in your cup, replicas of personalities like Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Jimi Hendrix, Audrey Hepburn and world-famous paintings like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night can also be served. And there’s more.  Edgy Japanese anime characters are all the rage in the world of latte art too. Baristas are spotted mixing colour syrups with steamed milk for these vivid canvases.