Latte Art – Barista Interview and Tips

To a home roaster or coffee connoisseur, ordering a latte at a mall-based coffee shop can be a depressing experience. But my head was pounding and I needed caffeine, so I ordered a latte at Cafe Bravo (formerly known as Shivers and Jitters.) I was amazed and thrilled to find my latte at the bar was adorned with latte art. This is a great sign. No one bothers to learn how to do latte art unless they have a deep and abiding appreciation for espresso. So it was that the latte made by the barista, Mark Christman, was one of the best lattes I’d ever tasted. Later, Mark and I had an opportunity to discuss his introduction to latte art. Below, is the interview.

An Interview with Mark Christman of Cafe Bravo in Temecula, California

What was your first introduction to latte art?

Mark: I saw a video made by David Schomer of Espresso Vivace in Seattle, called “Caffe Latte Art”.

Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques
Espresso Coffee: Professional Techniques by David C. Schomer

When did you learn?

I learned how to make Latte Art about 2 years ago.

How many attempts did it take you before you mastered latte art?

I can’t even count that…I’d say 300 drinks.

mark latte art
Mark’s Latte Art

What designs have you seen in latte art?

I do the leaf, but I’ve seen also seen hearts and some places do letters. The leaf is the most popular design.

Please describe the process of making latte art.

Start with cold milk and a cold pitcher always. Stretch the milk, only when it’s cold, and never warm. Once you feel the milk is at body temperature, tuck the wand and get a whirlpool going spinning clockwise. Once your milk is at 155 degrees, shut it off.

Tap your pitcher on the counter a few times, bringing the microbubles to the top, presenting a nice layer of foam. Pull your shot, and an espresso with thick crema helps! Cut your shot before it turns white. Tap your pitcher once again giving it a swirl, to mix the steamed milk, and the foam together. Pour your shots right down the middle of your espresso, slowly, not breaking the crema. 3 quarters the way up the cup, rock your pitcher back and forth while bringing it back slowly. Cut back across the top of your drink, creating the stem. Serve fresh and enjoy.

Pouring Down the Middle
Pouring Down the Middle

Do you have any tips for beginners?

Don’t over-stretch, don’t stretch warm milk, have nice fresh roasted espresso that offers excellent crema, have patience, never let your shots sit, and practice makes perfect.

What kind of equipment do you recommend?

For industrial machines, La Marzocco. For household, La Pavoni.

Can you make latte art at home?

I do.

Latte Art Design
Latte Art Design

Anything else that you’d like to add?

You can only master latte art with the right beans and the right milk. If you’re using old coffee, forget about it.

Resources

Barista Training Kit: Seattle Barista Academy Training Manual; Latte Art Love DVD, and Barista Fundamentals (2 DVD Set) – Latte Art training kit.

Latte Art Gallery – Photos of killer latte art designs.

Lura Lee

Founding member of INeedCoffee, Lura Lee, contributed content for a while, then stepped away.She came up with the original tagline "Caffeination Information." Now she enjoys coffee, but no longer pursues coffee as a hobby. You can find her entrepreneurial efforts elsewhere on the web and in B-2-B circles.

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