The History of Latte Art

Coffee Reserve Brands has been a proud sponsor of various Latte Art throwdowns lately, and it seems like this creative yet precise form of delicious artistic expression has come out of nowhere to become a measure of barista skill and talent everywhere.  So where did the idea of latte art begin and how have the techniques been passed on through the coffee community?

David Schomer, owner of Seattle’s Espresso Vivace is credited with bringing latte art to the forefront of coffee culture.  He first became intrigued with the “velvet foam” crafted at Uptown Espresso in 1988.  He worked on his technique of free-pouring the textured milk using the sides of the cup to form swirls and waves, and perfected the heart pattern by 1989.  He learned to create concentric rings around the heart by using a method of shaking the pitcher, which he learned from a barista in Milano.

Schomer saw the now popular Rosetta pattern (fernlike waves that form a floral design in the cup) first in a photo from another Italian café in 1992. He was smitten with the beautiful pattern and worked for about six months perfecting the technique.  Once the heart and Rosetta patterns are mastered, a creative barista can expand his or her repertoire into swans, rabbits, elaborate geometric designs, birds and other animals.

In the last few years, latte art throwdowns have become increasingly popular competitive events in the coffee world.  As in all culinary disciplines, presentation is a vital component of a successful creation.  In Schomer’s words, “The intent is to promote respect for caffe espresso as a culinary art that emphasizes flavor, a silky feel, and stunning presentation possibilities.”   As specialty coffee roasters, we love the history and dedication behind this growing art.