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How hard is it to make latte art? Ahead of Coffee Fest Baltimore, we gave it a try

Constructing the perfect heart or flower design to top a latte is as much a science as it is an art.

I found out first-hand during several attempts to etch a milk heart on espresso under the supervision of Matt Leberman, general manager of Order & Chaos in South Baltimore. In honor of the upcoming Coffee Fest Baltimore — and the latte art championship therein — we asked Leberman for a latte art lesson. (You can watch the results in the video above.)

To the customer, the process appears simple: Grind coffee beans, make espresso, steam milk and slowly swirl it into the espresso before pulling the pitcher away at the perfect moment. But there are plenty of factors that can go awry within those seemingly simple steps.

On my best attempt, I created a circle. My worst take showed no evidence of a design — it came out looking like nothing more than creamy coffee.

Leberman, who’s been in the coffee industry seven years, said it takes most new baristas at least six months to master the most basic designs. But professional designs can be incredibly intricate, and many of the world’s coffee pros will descend on Baltimore to try their hand at advanced latte art this weekend.

From Friday through Sunday, the Baltimore Convention Center will host Coffee Fest Baltimore, a coffee and tea industry conference that incorporates seminars on starting a coffee business, hands-on barista training and, of course, the Latte Art World Championship Open, a March Madness bracket-style tournament that will crown the best of 64 competitors.

In tandem with the conference, Order & Chaos will host an intimate latte art seminar at 4 p.m. Friday with world champion latte artist Daisuke Tanaka. The Japanese contestant is a No. 1- seed in the Coffee Fest bracket.

Tickets for Tanaka’s seminar are $50, and a few were still available through Eventbrite as of Wednesday.

After the seminar, Order & Chaos will reopen to the public at 6:30 p.m. Friday to host its own latte art throwdown judged by Tanaka. Amateur and professional baristas can enter the competition for cash and prizes, and the contest is free to watch for the public.

It’s safe to say I’ll stay on the sidelines for that competition.


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