have I become obsessed?

broadway cafe's macchiato

broadway cafe's latte

I ask myself this question because I have found that lately I have been completely discounting any latte that does not have latte art. I know that sounds crazy and obsessed...hints the title of the post. But even now writing this, I feel that I may have stumbled upon some sort of visual criterion to judge a coffee drink, or perhaps the creator of said drink, before the first sip. For example, I have been making a real effort to try other coffee shops in the Kansas City area. I have been doing this for two reasons. One, I am always in search of good coffee and nice shops to spend some time. Two, to continue to prove to myself that my statements about the Broadway Cafe having the best coffee in town are valid (which they are).
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I found ourselves in a part of town we don't frequent to often. It is close to our house but in the opposite direction of our typical travel. I had heard from a couple of people that I needed to try this coffee house (omitting the name...for now) next time I was there. We stopped in after dinner and each had a macchiato. I love using the macchiato as a drink to judge a coffee shop by because there is little enough milk to really get a grasp on the 'spro being pulled, at the same time it allowes you to see how the barista will handle what little milk there is. This brings me to my theory. When you watch a barista at work and he/she is careless on how they load the basket (grind, dose, distribute, tamp) you can bet that the shot will reflect the carelessness. That same holds true for how the milk is treated. When you see the barista simply poor the milk in the pitcher and then set the wand in and let the milk sit there for 20 seconds with the steam running, you can assume the milk will not achieve that microfoamy goodness that makes milk based espresso drinks so dreamy. This was exactly the case for this drink. The espresso itself was not that bad but the little bit of milk froth that was added was big, bubbly, airy and just set on top. I could tell before my first sip that this was going to be a disappointment.
I had a similar experience this morning. A new coffee shop just opened up about a block from where I work and I have been meaning to stop in for a cup. This morning I found the time. I walked in and asked for a 12 oz. latte and was immediately turned off when they asked what kind of milk I want. I know I will not get a lot of people agreeing with me on this one but I hate it when they ask me that. In my mind, if I didn't specify, it is up to the barista. Which ever he/she likes to pour. Anyway, I watched this young man tentatively load the basket and then very flaccidly steam the milk. I was getting more and more apprehensive by the second. Then the pour...he used the spoon to hold back the froth while he poured the milk in the espresso and then spooned two big airy scoops of froth on top. I was devastated.
I am almost convinced that the lack of latte art is a tale tell sign of a poor latte. This art can only be achieved when great care has gone into the entire latte making process. Assuming the espresso itself was extracted well, when you see latte art you can bet that the drink will be deliciously creamy and everything you were hoping for. Plus, it seems to be a common denominator that baristas interested in making really good coffee are also those same baristas interested in making latte art. This is not a constant...but it seems to be a pretty accurate observation.


tessa said...

yes. you have become obsessed.

Jess said...

you might just need to write a book about the lost art of latte... :)

Private Chef said...

Hi There

I just stumbled upon your blog and think it is an excellent read for foodies and especially like the photos and design of the blog.I started off as a blogger myself and realise the importance of a good clean design like you have here. I have now bookmarked it for myself to read and have added you to our new list of "all the food blogs in the world" on www.ifoods.tv which we have been compiling for the last month! Hopefully it will send you some traffic in the long run. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on food so keep up the good work and talk soon. Cheers

Fooding Around said...

Found your blog in Ink last week.

You make a very good point about coffee and the care that goes into making it. I test coffee shops by their mochas and recently went to the Perk Up shop at 9th & Grand. I had a bad feeling that the guys behind the counter didn't really know how to prepare a mocha, but went against my better judgement and let them do it. It was horrible. They probably don't even know what latte art is. Or to give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe it was just my luck of which barista I got.

My favorite coffee shop is Coffee Girls on Southwest Blvd in the Crossroads. Excellent mocha!! You've inspired me to try Broadway Cafe.