The West

Coffee lovers get a taste of creativity
Kaya McCarthy and Juliana Nobre create latte art at Ristretto. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

If your latte is served with a dragon, fish or flower count yourself among the lucky coffee drinkers whose barista takes pride in attention to detail.

While latte art is not new to WA, coffee experts say it has grown in popularity, with baristas keen to show off their handiwork to connoisseurs.

Events such as latte art "smackdowns" are held in cafes around the city to enable aficionados to compete. It involves a touch of science mixed with a dash of creativity and lots of skill and passion by baristas who view coffee making as an exciting and professional career path with opportunities - rather than just a part-time job.

Perth's coffee drinkers are reaping the rewards of such passionate professionals, according to coffee expert Emanuele Muratore.

"People are recognising that latte art is the mark of a focused and discerning café that is trying to do a good job with coffee," said Mr Muratore, who owns Ristretto coffee roaster and cafés.

"It involves a higher level of skills - it's not just about frothing and bubbling milk away. It's about understanding the science of it."

Mr Muratore, the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association's WA Coffee Championships co-ordinator, said a perfect cup of coffee provided a naturally sweet basis for latte art.

"Without a solid base in the right coffee and cup ware - which is like the inside of an eggshell, with no corners - you can't get the art," he said.

Good quality coffee beans need to be freshly roasted and then extracted perfectly. A finely "textured" full-cream milk is heated to about 65C to create tiny bubbles of micro-foam, which is carefully poured into the espresso shot to create images such as flowers and fish.

Although latte art was based on a superior cup, Mr Muratore said café patrons should not judge the quality of their coffee on aesthetics alone.

"Appearance is a fair indicator of a good coffee, but a quality café would also pay attention to taste over how it looks," he said.

WA's latte art champion, Kaya McCarthy, said a cup of coffee topped with latte art could be created in about one minute.

"It's a good sign of a professional barista," the 31-year-old Dimattina Coffee barista said.

"A good espresso base is the canvas."

Ms McCarthy said heart, rosetta and tulip free-pour patterns provided the basis for more creative etched designs such as dragons, swans, unicorns and a dog smoking a cigarette.

She will represent the State at the national coffee championships in Melbourne in May, along with barista champion Juliana Nobre from 5 Senses and coffee cup-tasting champ John Craft from Ristretto.

The West Australian

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