Let's Talk About Lattes - The Bend Magazine

Let’s Talk About Lattes

Quick morning sip on the history of latte art

By: Julieta Hernandez  Photos courtesy of: Jay Sansing 

As we sip our lattes or cappuccinos from our favorite coffee spots in town, we can’t help but wonder: how do our baristas gracefully manifest a tulip, heart, or intricate rosetta leaf so effortlessly?

The combination of a perfectly estimated espresso shot, milk steamed to a precise temperature, and the high pouring movement before guiding microfoam to a pretty design takes practice, just like any art. And just like any art, this one’s got a little history. In light of the Free Pour Showdown going on this weekend at Green Light Coffee, let’s talk about lattes.

A visual addition to that morning caffeine kick as well as an unlikely art form that happened when espresso crema and steamed milk found their harmony, didn’t just pop up on our Instagram feeds suddenly. The art from seemed to appear out of nowhere as another revolutionized way to sip coffee, and stuck as one of the most iconic ways to sip coffee today. 

Coffee itself has been around for ages: in the 17th century, Venice popularized it when Egypt brought over a cup or two in 1683. Roughly 300 years later, an unknown inventor started the latte (shot of espresso with steamed milk) trend, and 1980’s Venice espresso drinkers were into it.

Around the same time, and independently, latte art was brought to the United States. Seattle coffee shop owner David Schomer developed the popular heart shape, which is the most common and most loved today. Almost 40 years later, latte art comes in all shapes, styles, and forms imaginable. With the introduction of 3D latte art, and latte art with people’s actual faces on it, lattes have become an unlikely, caffeinated canvas for barista artists.

The style of free pour refers to creating a shape from the steamed milk stream directly into the crema. There’s also the etching method, in which a barista manually draws onto the crema or microfoam using a tool or end of a thermometer. Don’t worry, both methods taste the same.

While local baristas time their espresso shots and take the temperature of their steamed milk in preparation for the free pour showdown, you can enjoy a cocktail happy hour (where the venue will unveil some new coffee cocktails!), listen to DJ JELLOXSHOT, and prepare to watch these coffee artists pour it out in four different challenge rounds.

For the love of coffee, local roasters Driftwood Coffee Co. and Roastorium will be making an appearance, and the entire event is free to attend! Read more about it on the Facebook event page.