The 2012 World Latte Art Championship is over but baristi still rolling in their coffee shops back home. Some of them are determined to fight again next year for the title which takes place in Niece, France. The enthusiasm from all participants, from various countries was high in Seoul, Korea. Some were lucky, particularly our specialty coffee diplomats from Russia, Brazil, Germany, Poland, Lithuania and South Korea. Some were not so fortunate and were unable to reach that last step. In my opinion all of the contestants were champions just judging by the thoughts of being selected to such prestigious event in coffee history to compete on the World level. This does not mean that others have no skills in pouring beautiful latte art or their efforts do not deserve a big round of applause.
During this amazing event I was chatting with the winner of 2012 Spanish Latte Art Competition, Miguel Lamora. Miguel is also the winner of the Regional Barista Competition from Catalunya and holds 2nd place at the Spanish Barista Competition. Some would probably say that star did not shine bright enough for Miguel to be selected to the final, or perhaps his pour was not consistent to match the patterns presented to the judges. In my own opinion Miguel’s performance was outstanding. His calmness, great personality and the self-confidence in what he was trying to achieve led him to the 8th place in WLAC 2012 which is not bad at all. It’s like running a marathon.
Miguel’s participation at WLAC in Seoul coincided with his 28th birthday which was celebrated among his friends who came to support him . Including his competitors and other folks from specialty coffee industry on November 3rd. Apart from his passion to coffee, Miguel also enjoys other hobbies like photography, music and tranquility of the nature. The current economic situation in Spain and the prediction of the repeated austerity measures as we see in Greece, left Miguel unemployed. Unemployment in Spain reached it highest level and most young citizens are having a difficult time making ends meet. To some extent, it has also affected the coffee shops throughout the country. Miguel moved to Barcelona two years ago to pursue his passion for specialty coffee and become the Barista Trainer for local school of coffee.
As barista myself , an addict towards specialty coffee and one who appreciates aroma, flavor, body, complexity and taste, I love to speak to other baristi across the globe to find out what attracts them to specialty coffee, and at what point they realized that their life would change dramatically. Miguel is back in Spain, and we decided to chat a little bit more about his career and what coffee means to him. Miguel shared his story with me. It began 8 years ago when he was employed as a waiter with the intention to make some money and cover his personal expenses while taking technical courses on illustration. It was than that he was introduced to latter art by one of his ex-colleague that not only turned his life upsite down but changed his view towards coffee. No regrets whatsoever.
The most attribute that Miguel appreciates in espresso is intense and pleasant flavor combined with sweetness and acidity (i.e balanced and refreshing) that compliments with fruity and floral notes with no harsh bitterness in finish. We should not forget that espresso has three phases; water, oil and foam. James Hoffman once said that “coffees with interesting and delicious flavors often have a higher level of acidity“. In the coffee industry we would probably agree that the balance in espresso we are trying to achieve gives us a pretty good idea of what is going on.
Espresso is nothing without rich crema, and when pressurized water hits the ground coffee the interesting things start to happen. I have asked Miguel about espresso crema and here what he said: “It depends how it is… it must to be elastic, dense, good color… symbol of a good extraction, not under, not over…” As far as brewing method concerns Miguels prefers V60: “V60 is one of my favorites, it produces very clean cup with an amazing flavor. The Chemex is very elegant and tasty“. But when Miguel is away from home or attending various events outside of Spain he prefers to carry with him the easy brewing method, Aeropress which is perfect for traveling. Now we are going back to latte art and that was the main reason why Miguel ended up in Seoul and how we found out about him. Milk chemestry is one of the aspect of achieving the right texture for latte art. You can use 2% or whole milk or other milk alternatives if you can succeed. But whole milk tends to have a softer foam than non-fat because of the fat present. Why latte art is so important? Miguel shares his thoughts “the customers really love it and also it helps to increase your sales because of it, but we can’t forget that the most important thing is the flavor in the cup“.
We always refer specialty coffee as a third wave of coffee when agronomy, ecology, understanding the six essential elements such as the correct coffee-to-water ratio, a coffee grind that matches the brewing time, understanding the flavor where it comes from, etc. etc. had a tremendous impact on specialty coffee industry. I did not include here different way of processing coffee, the soil and altitude which are important factors that engage with each other before ending up in our cup. So I asked the question:
Mikhail Sebastian: With all the achievement and progress coffee industry has made towards introducing and establishing specialty coffee, do you still think we are in third wave of coffee movement?
Miguel Lamora: Absolutely, the coffee industry appreciates the great job specialty coffee has done in this market. Everyday more amazing coffees are discovered that at the end turn in our baristi hands. And as baristi we share the knowledge, do a lot of cupping to find new flavors, learn more from experts, and of course from producers from coffee growing regions that we support.
Being far away from Spain and not witnessing the economic disaster that wrapped this beautiful country and learning mostly from the news, I wanted to find out from the actual Spaniard about the impact that affected coffee businesses in this southwestern European nation on Iberian peninsula. Here what Miguel has to say: “It’s true that in Spain the situation is not the best, the government is not helping to open coffee shops, you have to invest a lot of money and obtain a lot of licenses, hard way… but I think that in few years, step by step, we can achieve a good standard in the speciality coffee industry. Baristas are more interested in specialty coffee and people like Javier Garcia (4th place in WBC 2012) from Right Side Coffee and Joaquín Parra, are starting to roast speciality coffees with great approach“.
Miguel is still being adjusted after Korea and overwhelming joy and happiness is still as Miguel says “a dream come true“. “If someone had told me 8 years ago that I could take part in the World Championship I would probably thought that this person was crazy…” As far as taking the 8th place in 2012 WLAC Miguel is not dissapointed at all but on the contrary, “I’am very happy with my results” said Miguel. Most baristi who are professionals in latte art had an opportunity to be trained by experts but some learned techniques on their own and Miguel is not acception: ” I started by myself and nobody explained me anything how to make Latte Art“.
Mikhail Sebastian: How do you achieve the appealing texture in espresso?
Miguel Lamora: Good coffee, well roasted, freshness, grind on demand, dosage, tamping, and extraction.
Miguel prefers light or medium roast and as he said “it depends on the preparation“, and as far as bitterness goes “I hate it” replied Miguel. Achieving the perfect milk texture to create beautiful latte art depends on “milk and finding your own way of frothing milk” explains Miguel. Further he continues “first add the air and then break the bubbles“. And of course milk is not the only ingredient to latte art, “the crema of espresso is also very important contributing factor to perfect latte art“, Miguel reaffirms.
At the conclusion I was interested in how Miguel would rank his own performance during the competition and here what my new friend had to say:
“I watched it and I really liked it, not because for the sake of being a part of WLAC. I felt comfortable during my presentation. I went overtime by 50 sec and I think that costed me to move to finals. I also saw some mistakes that I can correct for the next time but I’m very happy with my 8th place on the world ranking. Of course I was a bit nervous! Only 6 min to show the judges your job of the last months of training, and of course the job of your life is a great challenge, but I like it“.
To watch Miguel’s performance at 2012 WLAC in Seoul, Korea click here
Wish you a best of luck Miguel.