If it was easy for beginners to make latte art, it wouldn’t be latte art.
It takes hands that can sense when milk is heated to approximately 60 to 65 degrees celsius.
It takes air pressure to delicately froth the milk while forcefully moving the base in a whirlpool, pushing the light stuff up to the top.
It takes muscle memory to make a motion that is at once loose and filled with pinpointing control.
It takes patience, practicing upon the milk and espresso cups for hours upon hours until finally, there is a product that’s good enough. But that end result must be consumed quick, or else it won’t taste as great and the coffee oils will separate.
My hands recognize only a few things: slime on the subway poles that indicate bodily fluids; cake of any size, type or flavor; and my bed.
My muscles don’t have memory because they don’t exist.
My patience is that of a hamster’s. If it takes you longer than three seconds to push my treat into my cage then I will abandon the effort and bury myself into either newspaper scraps or wood chips (it depends on the day).
With all that said, traveling to the New York Coffee Festival on Friday and making latte art with the experts was quite entertaining.
I did horrible.
Various activities were going on within the indoor convention, including latte art demonstrations, which consisted of one man, a microphone, crates of whole milk gallons, and what seemed to be endless amounts of espresso.
First came Dritan Alsela, whose thick German accent and plushy brown hair gave the many humans around him no choice but to crowd an espresso machine and take every kind of photo at every kind of angle, and probably not look at those photos until the next time their iPhone memory is depleted.
Alsela said it took a lot of practice to get good at latte art; I believed him because he’s from the same land as David Hasselhoff, and one thing I’ve learned about David Hasselhoff is that he’s trustworthy.
He told the crowd to practice with a little water and then some milk, so as to not waste a ton of the dairy product. Little does he know that New Yorkers only drink pulverized oat water in their lattes.
Then he flicked his wrist the way all good Disney Channel stars did to create the fluorescent logo in commercials, and out came a lot of lines that made a lot of pretty things.
The gentlest giant ever in the history of Manhattan was next. Daniel Leo was like if you smushed up all of the happiest people you know and combined them to make a 6’5” human being who has, of course, the pure passion of creating latte art.
Leo likes swans. Specifically, milk foam swans. He made many, and showed how to make hearts and tulips and other things that turned my dark, black soul into a light shade of brown.
“You’ve got to pour a lot of bad drinks before the good drinks,” Leo said while trying to teach me muscle memory, temperature recognition and patience.
I burned the milk after demanding to froth it on my own, but he forgave me. “Be close enough and understand the feeling,” he said while I poured my try. It was like free therapy.
I learned a lot of facts for trivia, like dark espresso makes the best-textured art and looks better than light coffee because of the more noticeable contrast it has with the white milk. I learned to cut my shots short, which apparently means smaller espresso shots make better art. I learned the espresso stick that connects to the machine should be dry before adding new grounds (I did not learn what the espresso stick is actually called).
I learned all of that and made what I will call avant-garde latte art. It looked awful.
With his giant hands that can probably grip two basketballs, Leo made like 12 beautiful and dainty cups of pure goodness. I made a something that resembles Mitch McConnell’s face, but worse.
So, pretentious coffee snobs, you win. Latte art is hard and I will continue to buy $5 drinks at your place of work.