Coffee. In the 15th century it was first brewed in Yemen. In the 16th century the drink had spread to the rest of the Middle East, Persia, Turkey and northern Africa. Then came Italy, and it that took coffee and made it the drink of today, perfecting the espresso on which most drinks are based.
Today, coffee is wildly popular across the world. But a certain amount of snobbery is attached to this beverage! Today, I’m taking a look at two of those who declare their type of coffee the best: the espresso purist and the latte artist.
The espresso purist
Many people mispronounce this as ‘expresso’, and while the mistake may enrage an espresso purist, it is at least based on an understanding of one of the key elements of the espresso culture: espresso is meant to be drunk expressly, quickly; the Italian word espresso means quick.
The owner of a London coffee bar told the Guardian newspaper:“A proper Italian espresso isn’t designed to be savoured, it’s supposed to be knocked back at the bar. People drink it when they are on their way to work or after a meal; it’s basically a kick to keep you going.”
So, sitting about and sipping an espresso is to be sniffed at, say the purists. And what about the how the drink is made? A campaign is underway to educate non-purists in the true taste of espresso; recently an ‘Espresso Italiano Championship’ took place in which competitors tried to make the best-tasting, traditional drink. There is also an Italian Barista School that teaches baristas how to make espresso as it should be – which, according to the school founder, Carlo Odello, is ‘an entirely different thing from the kind of espresso you find at third-wave cafes these days, which in my opinion is too fruity, acidic and one-dimensional’. Instead, it should be ‘full-bodied and display a nice thick layer of golden crema. As for flavour, think nutty, chocolaty and a little earthy’ (source: Guardian).
The latte artist
At the other end of the spectrum from the pure, traditional espresso is the latte. Beyond the simply latte a whole range of flavours has developed, from the basic vanilla and mocha through to mint, orange, gingerbread and even eggnog. The espresso purist turns away in despair; the latte lover works eagerly through the menu board. Double shot? Extra cream? Chocolate sprinkles? Cinnamon dusting? So many variable are possible, and there’s an element of creativity in this beverage;creativity that has inspired a new art form – latte art!
Latte art involves creating images in the froth on top of a latte via two techniques: free pouring and etching. It was pioneered by David Schomer in his Seattle coffee shop Espresso Vivaceback in the 1980s, and it’s now a growing passion for really talented baristas – there are even competitions, like the the World Latte Art Championship. Take a look at this web page for some amazing latte art, including a recreationof Edvard Munch’s The Scream and portraits of Dali and Harry Potter.
If you’d like to have a go yourself, here’s a video tutorial: