Sunday, July 22, 2012

La Marzocco: Out of the Box. Latte Art Jam

Drawing with milk. Could there be anything harder than drawing with one semi viscose liquid into another another? Perhaps painting with a bloody stump? Drawing with a pencil held only by your mouth or toes? Yeah ok, all of those are all pretty difficult, but this latte art thing is with a jug! I mean sure, Jackson Pollock painted with a jug, but he had the freedom to drip and splatter like some uncontrollable ejaculation. There's definite credit in the control required for well crafted latte art, which was why I was intrigued to check out the La Marzocco: Out of the Box Latte Art Jam in Tempelhof yesterday. The Italian Espresso machine manufacturer hosted a trade show from the 20th - 21st of July in Berlin which included the World Espresso Tasting Championship (which sadly I couldn't attend) as well as a fun Latte art competition for those baristas with Michelangelican free-pour finesse.
The general method to achieving a nice piece of latte art, is to first make a good canvas, i.e - a well pulled shot of espresso with nice crema (this is the kind of foamy layer of coffee that's in the espresso). 

Then, it's steaming the milk to a good microfoam consistency (I've been told it should look quite glossy, and have no big bubbles - this is why you'll often see baristas bang the milk jug a few times before they begin pouring). 

Then begins the pouring, often with cup in one hand, jug in the other. The pour begins with the cup on an angle and the jug close to the surface. The milk goes in steadily and goes initially slips under the crema, until you have a solid base and the milk breaks through the crema to the top as pure white, this is the point where you can start drawing. It's mainly squiggly shapes like rosettas, ferns and hearts that are achievable with the free pour technique. If you want to get super-anal you can get in there with a pointy object and start drawings, but meh, whatever.

The competition was to try and draw two identical drinks with points awarded for symmetry, contrast of coffee to milk, style and likeness.

It was nice to be at a venue with people passionate and excited about coffee, there was a competitive but friendly atmosphere, I spotted baristas from Gothenburg, N├╝rnburg, Bern, as well as native Berliners. At the end of the day, I wasn't there to publish results, just to enjoy the fruits of labour, and enjoy some good coffee.

Two very focused judges.

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