Latte art is a method of preparing coffee created by pouring steamed milk into a shot of espresso and resulting in a pattern or design on the surface of the latte. It can also be created or embellished by simply „drawing“ in the top layer of foam. Latte art is particularly difficult to create consistently, due to the demanding conditions required of both the espresso shot and milk. This, in turn, is limited by the experience of the barista and quality of the espresso machine. The pour itself, then, becomes the last challenge for the latte artist.
Before the milk is added, the espresso shot must have a creamy brown surface, an emulsion known as crema. As the white foam from the milk rises to meet the red/brown surface of the shot, a contrast is created and the design emerges. As the milk is poured, the foam separates from the liquid and rises to the top. If the milk and espresso shot are „just right,“ and the pitcher is moved during the pour, the foam will rise to create a pattern on the surface. Alternatively, a pattern may be etched with a stick after the milk has been poured, rather than during the pour.