Coffee art (HLD 407)

25 May 2021

I happened to see a rather impressive piece of artwork on a coffee recently. Ok, it was a jigsaw puzzle image that I was doing on my iPad – but this only means I had a bit of time to ponder the artwork.

It was a picture of a panda and its baby, fairly impressive, which must have taken a bit of time for the barista to fashion out of milk and coffee.

Do you want to know my thought, when faced with this impressive coffee artwork??? “That coffee will be cold by the time it gets to the customer”.

When I get my coffee order from a cafe, there’s only a couple of things that I’m very conscious of – is the coffee hot enough?, and is the cup full (ie not topped up with foam that I didn’t order)?

My coffee order is a flat white (Australian style). In other countries a flat white seems to be interpreted as a very small cup of strong white coffee, but in Australia it basically interprets to being a stronger latte. Without froth. (Woe betide the barista who offers a particular member of my family with a flat white with more than a hint of foamy frothed milk on top. I won’t mention names, but it’s my brother, and his name is Ronald. Address available on request. He is liable to scoop the froth off the top of his coffee and leave it on the saucer for someone to deal with, giving a not quite subtle hint that he did not ask for a cappuccino.)

I really don’t care about what clever design the barista has created on top of my coffee. If it’s quirky and quick, I’m ok with it. If it takes too long to create and lets my coffee get cold, I don’t want it. Let’s face it – time spent appreciating the artwork is minimal when a cup of coffee and my mouth are in close proximity.

The ability to make a nice cup of coffee should be enough to keep baristas in well paid jobs for their lifetime, but apparently they now need to be fully fledged latte artists as well. Maybe this harks back to the days of university graduates, armed with their Bachelor of Arts degree, being unable to find jobs other than making coffees????? Who knows..

Granted, I’ve seen some impressive stuff on top of my coffee over the years. There’s the classic and apparently quite easy to do heart, which I always suggest looks more like a backside than a heart.

Then there’s the tulip, which seems to be the standard on a cafe coffee – fancy enough to impress those people who need more than a cup of coffee to brighten their day (not me), but not so detailed that the coffee could be relabelled as an iced coffee by the time it gets to the table.

The most art-worthy picture I’ve ever had on my coffee is a swan. I thought this was particularly impressive as I was drinking my coffee near the Swan River in Perth at the time. But I’ve seen photos of dragons, bears, rabbits, foxes, koalas, and even a lion, on cups of coffee.

The coffee I drank that arrived with the picture of the swan on it was, quite frankly, best described as tepid. Yes, it was an impressive bit of artwork, but I didn’t order coffee flavoured artwork. I ordered coffee. And the extra little dots in the picture behind the swan had me wondering what those dots were meant to represent.

My best way to discourage wannabe artists (waiting for their big break while making coffee), is to order my coffee takeaway. This gives the barista the message that there’s gonna be a lid placed over that coffee and no one will ever see the droopy tulip, so let’s not bother.

Just hand over my coffee, complete with freshly steamed milk unadorned by swan poo.

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