Imagine. It’s a breezy night in late August, and you’ve finished your dinner. Is there any better way to offset the sweet and salty flavours left on your palate than with a rich, hot coffee? The beverage need not only be consumed in the morning to jolt you into action—it is also perfect after an evening spread. So, as we near the end of our blogging adventure with food art, let’s relax over a cappuccino, a latte, or an espresso while considering the true art of coffee.
Modern coffee, grown in coffee trees in the “girdle” between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, is generally made up of Coffea Arabica, which accounts for seventy-five percent of world consumption (Pendergrast n.p). Coffea Robusta, another commercially viable coffee plant, is considered inferior because of its bitterness and high levels of caffeine (Pendergrast n.p).
Part of understanding the art of coffee begins with acknowledging the wide array of flavours in each blend. Coffee is similar to wine in the sense that no two mixes are identical in taste and aroma. Lighter bodied blends are suited to foods like fruit salad—the light flavours in the food are enhanced by the coffee’s brightness. On the other hand, dark, rich coffees are best served with robust, full-flavoured meals. Cafes and coffeehouses, where we coffee lovers enjoy such a variety of blends, began as fifteenth and sixteenth century establishments known as kaveh kanes (Pendergrast n.p). These coffeehouses supplied a location where individuals could converse with friends over the coffee beverage of their choice (Pendergrast n.p).
Credit: Image by Lisa Salfi
Cappuccino and latte art is generally the first association made with coffee art. It’s an artistic technique in which floating images are created using foamed milk. Leaves, flowers, swans, and detailed portraiture are designed by carefully pouring frothy milk into the espresso. The embedded video shows specific techniques to achieve the desired result:
There are some key indicators of a truly lovely cappuccino. A reddish-brown ring should surround the floating white design (Safronsky n.p). The foam should be “tight” with few visible bubbles and the natural sweetness of the milk should eliminate the need for added sweeteners (Safronsky n.p).
Coffee art, however, is not confined to floating milk foam designs. Painting with coffee, developed by Angel Sarkela-Saur and Andrew Saur at Coffee Art®, takes the everyday product to an exciting new level. By using coffee as the medium for their paintings, the couple asserts that their artwork reaches individuals from all cultures in the sense that coffee is a beverage to which many people have access.
With subjects ranging from forests to Viking ships, their art has received attention globally. However, coffee is a very difficult medium with which to work—the couple has to mix their own colours in the same way that Renaissance artists had to create their own pigments. Be sure to visit their website at www.justcoffeeart.com.
This post only begins to explore to the art of coffee. If you are looking for more possibilities, try cooking with coffee. Enjoy!
Mark Pendergrast. “Coffee.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003. University of Windsor. 17 June 2012 http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/ENTRY.html?subview=Main&entry=t170.e0188
Mark Pendergrast. “Coffeehouses.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Ed. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003. University of Windsor. 17 June 2012