Sunday, 28 October 2012

Are you a latte in disguise?

I make a point of trying to highlight cafes or roasteries which serve above average coffee. Since the idea of "good" coffee is entirely subjective, there are a number of objective criteria that I look for instead - dark espresso crema, the correct volume of fluid in a shot and the correct extraction time, to name a few. Occasionally, I come across examples of coffee where something has gone wrong - here are two things that I've encountered recently.
I've noticed a trend lately in a number of cafes. If you order a latte and a cappuccino, you will receive two drinks which are virtually identical. This is a bad thing - there is a specific ratio of espresso to milk to foam for each drink.
A capuccino typically has a ratio of one third espresso, one third steamed milk and one third milk foam. The layer of foam is thicker than a latte for a specific reason - it imparts a smooth, silky mouthfeel to the drink. A latte differs in that it has a thinner layer of foam - the same mouthfeel is not present.
Honestly, I don't mind if an order is mixed up - in a busy cafe, it will happen, and it's not something to lose sleep over (I make a point of never, ever being rude to baristas or kitchen crew). However, there is a difference between getting an order wrong and simply not knowing the difference between different drinks - one is an understandable mix up, the other tells me a lot about a cafe, and it's attitude towards making coffee.
I wrote in a previous post that it's hard to make bad coffee with a good espresso shot. Hard, but not impossible. The cappuccino in the picture below looks good, but unfortunately it wasn't. The milk appears to have been steamed either at an incorrect temperature, or for an incorrect duration - this resulted in foam which did not have the usual smooth mouthfeel. The layer of foam was too thin, resulting in a drink that resembled a flat white instead, but with a layer of uneven foam on top - losing the best parts of each drink.
I've been to the cafe before, and this was the first bad experience that I've had there. Also, reviews on the blog are based around a series of visits over time - I won't write a bad review simply because of one bad experience. The espresso shot that I also had was good, and they do some interesting and creative things with drinks - I'll still be back.  

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