Latte art does nothing to directly improve the flavor of your drink. What it does is indicate a quality barista – or at least a keen hobbyist who enjoys his or her work. Latte art is a quality seal. It is your barista telling you, “It’s alright. I’m paying attention.” Odds are, the Latte Artist has worked out the “rhythm” of the shop’s espresso machine, unconsciously keeping time until the perfect shot is achieved. The Latte Artist doesn’t burn the steamed milk – and if she ever did, she’d realize it right away, dump the mess, and start over. The Latte Artist can talk your ear off about how he’s tweaked his espresso roast, and holds strong opinions on consistency, froth and aroma. In short, the Latte Artist is the person you want crafting your mocha. If you’re standing in line for a double espresso and the person in front of you comes away with latte art, it’s worth considering upgrading your purchase.
The latte art above was provided by Travis at Yeti’s Grind, who was so dissatisfied with my first round of photos he made another mocha – the first had cooled to an unacceptable level, according to him – and had me shoot it again under better lighting conditions. Latte Artists are like that.