Eternity in a LatteCulture, Essays, Food and Drink — By on April 16, 2012 at 12:04 pm
For the past three weeks I have spent a lot of physical and mental energy on latte art. Why latte art? Because after an hour of pouring drink after drink and drinking drink after drink the act of pouring a rosetta with silky steamed milk into the crema of a freshly pulled espresso melds with the overdose of caffeine in my veins into a twitch kind of thing that starts in my right hand and eventually takes over my entire body and mind. There is no escaping latte art once you have started. The pleasure of a beautiful pour is on the brink of an existence that you experienced once but your over caffeinated shaky hands won’t let you into again. At least for this latte. Drink the 6oz with the uneven heart. Pull another double shot. Steam the milk. Don’t let too much air in. Feel the calm as your mind momentarily forgets how many espresso drinks you have had in the last hour. Tap. Swirl. Breath. Pour.
Barista training is both a war and a dance. I love it.
But why make a latte into art? The pragmatist wins this argument with an appeal to science and an oh so out of fashion quip about certainty. If science says the drink is exactly the same whether it has a shapeless cloud or a vivid white tulip in the middle of the caramel colored crema who is our sensory self to say anything different? The idealist replies with an out of context T.S. Eliot quote and continues to care less and less about arguments as his nose and mouth get closer to the drink which his eyes are already devouring.
As I was reading up on the subject of being a good barista I was inspired by one writer’s perspective on serving an artful latte to an unsuspecting customer. Their reason for serving drinks with art is the possibility that when someone experiences something as regular as their daily caffeine fix transformed into a small work of art that person could for a moment forget their worldly cares and maybe just for that moment be open to the idea of beauty. And who knows where the idea of beauty can lead the unsuspecting human?
As someone who believes in the ever new love of a creator for his creation, I think beauty can lead to something very important. If a person with the troubles of the world looks at something as simple as a latte with a fluid rosetta and wonders why something as silly as that can make them feel the slightest tinge of joy they may have taken the first step to finding an eternal truth which will set them free. Maybe latte art is an important subject that has more eternal significance than we are willing to give it. Or maybe it’s pointless, I don’t know. Much of art seems to be lost in the question, what is it about? So for a second I want to have an open mind to this heavenly beverage sitting in front of me and allow beauty to lead me to its source.