blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Saturday, May 13, 2006

rosetta latte epiphany

As Superbarista, I probably shouldn't be admitting that I have not yet conquered the rosetta latte. I should be an expert at it. But alas, I am not an every-day barista, I am only a guest barista at the Phoenix cafes from time to time, so I have not yet perfected my rosetta skills, despite the fact that I have been attempting rosetta lattes for YEARS now. One day last year, my kids had the day off from school and the three of us spent all day on the espresso machine at the roastery, we went through four gallons of milk, and the closest we got to a rosetta latte was the one Kiley poured, when he dropped by near the end of the day. Drat!

At Phoenix's April Barista Jam, I had a quiet epiphany that I didn't share with anyone. Eric Coble stood next to me and watched me pour three lattes, none of which were successful demonstrations of latte art. It was a little embarrassing; I wanted to strut my stuff, like Julie, who sauntered up to an unfamiliar machine and made a gorgeous one on the first try. While Eric was standing there watching me, I realized that my latte art often fails because I watch the espresso while I am frothing the milk, rather than focusing completely on the milk texture itself, which is what really makes the latte art. So I vowed that I would shift the emphasis of my attention away from the espresso (which feels like a sacrilege) to the milk itself.

This past Thursday, at the Lee Road cafe, I was working the counter, and Jack Kleinhenz, local economic guru (formerly with REI) stepped up to the counter and ordered his usual small latte. I wonder if he could sense my tingling glee as I turned towards the espresso machine. I got the espresso dosed and tamped, fixed in the machine, turned it on and forgot about it. I even used the automatic dosing mechanism, which I usually don't, so that I wouldn't have to worry about stopping the pour at the required volume. In general, this is not a good idea; you always want to watch your espresso, to make sure the stream of coffee looks right! I poured the milk in the steaming pitcher, thought better of the amount I had poured, and added more. There is nothing more frustrating than misjudging the quantity and running out of milk prematurely. In went the steam wand. I stretched briefly, then rolled, all the while watching like a hawk to make sure there were NO BIG BUBBLES (the enemy of latte art). When the pitcher was nice and warm, verging on hot to the touch, I stopped the rolling, turned off the steam wand.

Meanwhile, the espresso was finished. It looked great, despite my purposeful inattentiveness. I poured it in the cup, then started with the milk. For the first part of the pour, the espresso and the milk married and mixed into a light brown. When I saw the HD (high definition) foam (as David Schomer calls it) appear, my heart jumped. Was this going to be it??? Optimist that I am, I started the back and forth sloshing motion that makes a rosetta. The coffee cooperated and stripes began appearing! As the level of liquid reached the top of the cup, I ran the stream of milk down the middle, and a small but identifiable rosetta smiled back at me. I picked up the cup and set it in front of Jack, telling him that this was my first rosetta ever. I wanted to cry, and take a picture, but I didn't think Jack would be up for that much drama first thing in the morning. He just wanted his coffee. He did agree it was pretty, though. And, after his first sip, he even said it tasted good.


Blogger steveg said...

Oh right! way to go! And Jack, for all his hard work for the region, deserves the honor, whether he recognizes it or not.

11:17 AM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger cmcafe said...

Superbarista... I'm so excited for you! I desperately want to be able to pour a rosetta - even a dodgy one would do! :-) Heartfelt congrats. Thanks for posting this. Now I'm inspired to keep trying since it has taken you so long and you finally got it.

7:56 AM, May 17, 2006  

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