Latte Art at Starbucks.
This evening (September 6, 2013), I dropped by the Pine Street Starbucks, and chatted for a few minutes with Jason, a barista at that store. He was on his lunch, kind of hanging out in the cafe. I have had a number of great conversations with Jason, and he is one of my favorite partners. (I have many favorite partners!).
I said to Jason, “I feel like I need a blog post for tomorrow, and I don’t have anything written. What should I write about?”
And without hesitation, he said, “Melody, I think you should write about latte art.”
I thought ‘That’s a pretty good idea.’ I don’t think I have ever really talked about latte art at Starbucks before. I mentioned milk pitchers once, but I have never put a spotlight on latte art.
Before I knew it, Jason was back on the floor, and so I ordered a latte, and told him that I would take a photo of it:
Jason lamented that latte art was a little more difficult in Starbucks pitchers, versus smaller pitchers. He wanted to make sure that I knew that he could create something a little prettier, if using a slightly smaller pitcher. Out of nowhere it seemed, he had some smaller pitchers, and created this beautiful latte art:
Frankly, I thought his first one was very good, considering he only had one try to make it perfect.
The latte art conversation reminded me of a photo that was on my phone from just last month. I had dropped by the Pacific Place Starbucks, and spent a moment talking to Christoper on bar. I will say, Christopher really makes being on bar look effortless. He was working through a short line of customer beverages, and as I watched him work, I realized that every single beverage was handed off with some sort of quick latte art. I snapped a photo of this drink, only to see that just a moment later, Christopher put whipped-cream on top:
That photo doesn’t showcase Christopher’s latte art skills, in that I have seen him produce larger, prettier rosettas on lattes. Still, I am wholly impressed that anyone can work at the speed needed at a Starbucks cafe, with large pitchers, and hand off every single beverage with some kind of latte art on it.
When I order a latte, I generally do lift the lid and look at the foam before I take the first sip. I would notice latte art! I enjoy seeing it on a beverage, and wonder if others feel the same way?
Thank you Jason for the blog topic idea.
Quite nice Jason! Thanks for taking the time to do it. This is truly a lost art around here. Hardly ever see it. Should be part of training for sure.
As a partner I have mixed feelings about latte art. Props to those (like Jason) who are able to add it effortlessly into their beverage-making routine. However, it can detract from the quality of the drink at times. For example, there should be no foam on a drink receiving whipped cream. Likewise, a cappucino shouldn’t get art, either, because it requires too much foam. So if partners are able to in incorporate latte art into their lattes, then I think that’s fantastic, but it really should only be found on lattes.
I like the note about having many favorite Starbucks partners, because I feel the same way about many in my area, and even when I (frequently) visit ones in other states and countries through travel.
I love the art, and can appreciate partners like Jason or new Masters of that beverage craft who started out intimidated (if you don’t mind such a recap) like Nikki from Hungary. I have no such skills – I think I’d find a way to mess up the pretty criss-cross partners do on Caramel Macchiatos!
@Winnie – I have watched baristas put a lot of work into the criss-cross on a caramel macchiatto! That too looks like it requires skill.
I do much the same, with putting some latte art on a drink that I then throw shots and caramel on. It’s because these partners take pride in what they do, regardless of wether anyone actually sees it. I firmly believe a hard worker is a hard worker, regardless of the job.
@ChaseJaynes – I think the same way. When I hear someone complain about the job they are in, and complain and complain, and then say they’d work harder in a different job, I almost always assume the problem is the person, not the job. They are the same ones who would work harder if they earned more, who never realize that they have to work hard right now.
Love your blog here on Facebook. Starbucks is my fave even before I moved to Seattle, which I just did from Texas actually:) Some of my family works for the Starbuck’s stores here in Seattle-that is how I found your awesome blog! Yes, I would dig the latte art. I think it would add something special to the drinks. However, I feel that it should be something that baristas spontaneously and sporadically do for customers at that;that way it would bring more mystique to the fact that “hey Starbucks now does latte art”-like a hidden little gem.:) However there are some drinks (no-foam lattes for ex.) that some customers might not appreciate that on. But yes, latte art would take Starbucks to a whole new level.
Hi Mel, here in the UK we have a beverage called the Flat White, which is 2 shots of espresso and steamed whole milk in a small teacup-style mug, served with a saucer. The whole milk is only steamed to 120 degrees to make it slightly sweeter. We are all encouraged to finish these beverages with a heart finish latte art as standard but what we all aim for is the perfect Rosetta, which is the fern/leaf like finish your barista friend Jason created. We have special smaller pitchers for these that are more suited to latte art.
We all get quite competitive with our artwork and I am always trying to get a quick photograph of my best ones before handing them out!
My name is Jeoffrey, and I am a Partner in Calgary, AB, Canada.
I have a lot of concern about how starbucks stores are some times managed. Coffee is doubtlessly a culture, and a coffee shop needs management that understands this culture.
The approach to beverage making of most partners is reading the recipe cards and follow them as if we were referring to a computer’s algorithm. 2 shots of espresso, steamed milk to below one inch of the rim, top with foam. As long as you provide this, the average management will be more than pleased.
However, making drinks professionally is beyond that, you need to master every single step of the process keep your espresso machine calibrated, pour your shots so the don’t get bubbles, and most important you have to master milk frothing and pouring. Someone said in a previous message that whipped drinks are not suitable for free pouring as they get too much foam, and that only capuccinos are OK for latte art. Well I am afraid that even thogh you probably have done it millions of times, you don’t really have the commitment to get a skill. The density, the amount and the texture of foam is 100 percent up to the barista’s technique and skill.
I think Starbucks as company cares about drink quality, but managers and supervisors as employees don’t really care. Latte art is not just about “good looking” of drinks, its the proof a barista gives the customer that they are paying for a delicatessen, otherwise they are paying 5 dollars for microwaved milk with Nescafe. The proof is people asking for “no foam” lattes, that is an insult to the coffee culture the point of froathing milk is not warming it up, It’s about creating a sensorial experience, espresso infused microfoam is just possible with an appropriate free pouring technique, and when you have that technique latte art comes by itself its effortless (on its basic level).
I think every partner has a commitment of delivering the best drink that they are capable to produce, and that is the company’s expectation. On my point of view is unethical don’t trying to actively improve your technique and knowledge every day. I’ve made all the basic of latte art at work using just our standard tools. Our pitchers are absolutely perfect for basic latte art.
At the end of the day you are not performing for others to behold your creation. You perform your best for yourself because you deserve to be a professional either it is in an IT company or behind a counter in a humble starbucks.
I work at Starbucks in Seattle and have been scolded by more than one manager when they’ve noticed a heart or Rosetta resting in the foam of my latte. To them, it isn’t “standard” and therefore shouldn’t be done. I love doing latte art. It not only makes customers smile – it’s satisfying and fun! Working the bar can make you feel like a conveyor belt: steam, pull, pump, pour, lid, call out, repeat. But that’s standard. That’s “correct.” When my manager isn’t around I’m able to break the trance and create drinks and feel like a barista. I’m working on a tulip next, which I’m very excited about!
An espresso drink should delight the senses-taste, touch, smell and sight. The way something looks can absolutely affect its taste, IMO. Plus latte art not only shows off the skill of the barista, it also is a way of ensuring that your drink was well made. Good, consistent latte art shows that the milk was steamed properly (only microfoam creates good latte art) and that the espresso is of good quality with nice crema. Starbucks brought second wave coffee to America and popularized it. It’s played a huge role and will continue to do so. Now it’s time to see if it’s really ready to move forward and to embrace every aspect of true quality.
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Hy! I’m from Hungary and I’m working in the Starbucks Fashion Street which store is the most popular in my country. We don’t have a lot of time to practice latte art, but last fall we had the new promo: ristretto bianco (double ristretto shot with fat milk in a little mug), and we had to learn a little bit of latte art. I’ve been so freaked out, I thought I’m never gonna be able to learn this. I started to watch youtube videos, and I made it 🙂 There was a competition last year between the SBX stores (we only had 7 stores, now we have 9), and I’ve became a Rosetta Maestro 🙂
here’s my practice album, I hope you like it.