Latte art – a pattern or design on the surface of an espresso drink created by pouring steamed milk in the foam – is a creative outlet for Starbucks baristas and source of surprise and delight for customers.
In addition to creating beverages customers will love every time, many partners (employees) have embraced latte art. Mackenzie Karr, a Starbucks Coffee & Tea Education specialist, demonstrates how to make a latte heart.
We also reached out to four enthusiastic Starbucks latte artists to learn what goes into the craft and where they get their ideas.
An Accidental Heart
Paulo Asi never created latte art through his first four years as a Starbucks barista. Then one day the seven-year partner (employee) was free-pouring a Cappuccino and a heart emerged. From that point, Asi was off exploring patterns and combinations, and drawing inspiration from other latte artists.
Regular Starbucks customers at the Brentwood, California store where he works have come to expect his special design and some opt for a Flat White when he’s behind the bar, intrigued with what he’ll come up with.
“There are also some who watch as I pour and ask for a lid on the side so that they can take pictures,” he said. “I like seeing the excitement on our customers’ faces whenever they admire their beverage. It feels good to make that small connection.”
A Dot Marks the Starting Point
Steven Nam’s roots as a latte artist began with a dot. Late in 2014, he was new on the job at a Starbucks® store in Solon, Ohio. A fellow barista challenged him to punctuate a drink he’d made with a simple dot. That led to hearts, Rosetta patterns, tulips, swans and more.
Nam draws inspiration from two main sources: the latte art creations of other partners he finds on social media and the reactions he gets from customers.
“Whenever a customer gets a ceramic for-here cup, seeing their faces light up with a simple heart design on their latte definitely makes my day,” he said.
Inspiration from Nature
Sharing a home with several scientists has stimulated Cecil Roth’s unique latte art designs.
A three-and-a-half-year partner, Roth didn’t get into latte art until after Starbucks introduced Flat White a year ago. From that point on, the creative juices flowed – inspired in part by those scientific roomies.
“I’m always learning something strange about wasps or neurons or poisonous plants, so I love anything that can wind up looking animal, floral, or even abstract,” said Roth, whose standby design is a curling fern.
“I love handing off a decorated drink to a customer because they’re so often surprised and delighted,” added the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based barista. “It’s energizing.”
Hold the Lid
Girlie Carba is inspired to create latte art by the moods she senses in Starbucks customers. If she gets the impression someone is having a bad day, she tries to turn things around with a tulip, rosette or some other doodle.
A nearly two-year partner in Davao City, Philippines, Carba began creating simple hearts during her first month on the job. Over time, she developed her technique by studying videos online and practicing.
For Carba, one of the most rewarding moments is when customers remove the lids on their drinks so they can enjoy her art for a few moments more.
As Valentine’s Day nears, Starbucks invites customers to bring their loved ones and friends on a #StarbucksDate where they can enjoy three new Molten Chocolate beverages.