It’s all about perfection, even if it’s short-lived.
Laura Hurt, barista at Mockingbird Cafe, said she has no idea how many lattes she makes in an average day, but each one has to be perfect, including the lagniappe that comes in every cup.
“I try to do latte art on every latte I make,” Hurt said. “But if it’s not perfect, I’ll just make a swirl.”
For the uninitiated, a latte is coffee made when steamed milk is poured into a shot or shots of espresso. But Hurt takes the process a step further and creates a personalized design or “latte art” for all of her customers.
“I started doing it about a year after I started working here,” said Hurt, who recently celebrated her 10th year with the cafe. “I had friends who were always tagging me in photos or asking me about it, so I decided to try it.”
Hurt’s repertoire includes hearts and leaves and even bunnies. She said, however, that she really enjoys doing seasonal designs for her customers.
“I do snowmen, Easter bunnies — for the upcoming pumpkin spice season I’ve even done pumpkins that say ‘coming soon,’ ” she said. “During football season, everyone gets a fleur de lis and some of the crazy college fans even ask me to do LSU and Alabama swirls.”
‘Manipulating the milk’
Hurt is much like any other artist except that her canvas is a steaming hot cup of coffee. And like any practicing artist, she said she is still challenging herself to do new foam pieces.
“I’m trying to learn how to do a rainbow one and I haven’t perfected it yet,” she said. “Every time I try it, I find something else that I’m doing wrong.”
Although the task of painting an object with a steamed liquid may seem daunting, Hurt can do it with ease.
“It’s all about manipulating the milk,” she said. “You have to froth it right because if I froth it too thick, it’s not going to work right — you have to get the perfect froth.”
According to eater.com, a popular food and beverage website, milk is the key to successful latte art. The website says milk proteins and fat levels are contributing factors into what type of foam will be created when the milk is steamed.
Temperature is also important because milk will curdle or scald if it is overheated.
Mastering her craft
Hurt said the first latte creation was a simple heart.
“I’m constantly trying to learn new things,” she said. “I’m very interested in 3D latte art which uses a drier foam to create sculptures — there are even people that are doing portraits, but remember — you still have to serve the coffee to the customer while it's hot.”
Although Hurt has become an expert artist, she said she only does it for her customers.
“My customers all love it and they all take pictures of it,” Hurt said. “I don't even drink lattes — I only drink boring black coffee.”