You can’t walk down any street in the city without it becoming clear that coffee has become a ‘cult’ of sorts: there’s even a yearly London Coffee Festival (in Brick Lane, naturally – could it be any more hipster?). The coffee snobs, who won’t set foot inside a Costa, avoid Starbucks like the plague, and even deem Nero’s beverages as inauthentic, are growing, and the amount of independent, home roasted, artisan coffee shops are increasing with them. But should we mere mortals be so dismissive of these coffee-aficionados? Are they as rightly superior about their coffee as a fashionista would be about Primark or an art-freak about Manga? Because, arguably, coffee is an art form.
Coffee has become a day to day convenience and our taste buds have become all too familiar with the chain’s conveyer belt ‘coffee’. But it is not until you get a taste of a proper flat white, an independent’s cappuccino or a perfect latte that you start to doubt your regular mocha. Many cafes and coffee shops in London are appealing to these hardened coffee-addicts and offering on-site roast and ground coffees, different weekly blends, and options to tailor your coffee exactly as you want it.
If you think that swirly leaf thing on top of your flat white at Costa is impressive, take a look at some real coffee art and you will brush it off as a child’s stick man drawing. From words to animals; even celebrities have been known to grace a latte’s foam when trained baristas construct a coffee. Of course these masterpieces are hardly long lasting – no doubt minutes later the work of art will dissolve or get drunk. But then just as a chocolatier or baker can be classed as an artist, despite their masterpiece being temporary and consumable, so is the Great Barista.
One of my most treasured Christmas presents last year was ‘The London Coffee Guide’ – a book dedicated to reviewing and rating a huge number of independent cafes and coffee shops in London. Though I have yet to work my way through it (I think I may have tried 5-6 of the establishments now), the very fact that it exists and is in demand proves that people are taking coffee very seriously these days, myself included.
From the temperature of the milk to the depth of the coffee, the thickness of the foam and the roasting time of the beans, making a decent cup of coffee is no mean feat. Perhaps next time you put in your order, you may want to consider the barista as Van Gogh of the coffee world. But, if for you coffee is coffee just as wine is wine (sommeliers cover your ears), just think of the barista as a saviour: hangover + essays = need caffeine fast.
*originally published in CUB magazine (http://cubmagazine.co.uk/2014/05/just-espresso-rise-coffee-art-form/)