Coffee art is the new medium

Emily Coumbis creates fantastic coffee art creations
Emily Coumbis creates fantastic coffee art creations

It was only a question of time that a talented barista would start experimenting with his/her milk foam and now, voilà, we have a new art medium that looks like lots of fun and tastes delicious: coffee art.

IRMA got curious and wanted to find out more about how this is done and, through her New York guest editor Zoe, met with barista Emily Coumbis from the Piggyback Cafe in New York.

IRMA: How did you get the idea to make rainbow lattes?
EMILY COUMBIS: I saw the Instagram account @ibrewcoffee playing around with latte art and one quiet day at work we got some food dye to experiment with and the rest is history!

IRMA: How do you achieve the best colors?
EMILY COUMBIS: I use just regular food dye so it’s safe to drink, too. I also got the idea to mix the colours so we could also get orange, purple, green etc. I have about 10 colours that I can use to get different colour schemes and effects by mixing them with each other.

IRMA: Is it healthy to have food paint in your coffee and does it makes a difference in the taste?
EMILY COUMBIS: It’s the same dye that bakers use in cakes and cooking, it’s not toxic so it is safe to drink, it also doesn’t alter the taste of the milk contrary to what it looks like.

IRMA: What is next?
EMILY COUMBIS: The demand for baristas to be able to do latte art in the coffee industry is increasing so I’m currently in the middle of opening up a coffee training school within the Venzin Group (the group of cafes run by Giorgina Venzin, including where I work at Piggyback) where I will be teaching basic barista courses for anyone wanting to get into the industry and then also latte art courses for those who wish to further their skills.

Talented barista Emily Coumbis at the Piggyback Cafe in NYC
Talented barista Emily Coumbis at the Piggyback Cafe in NYC

IRMA: When did you decide to become a barista?
EMILY COUMBIS: I’ve been in the hospitality business for about 8 years now. Originally it was a great way to earn money to get through university but I got hooked on making coffee. The great thing about the coffee industry is that there is always more to learn; about the coffee beans, its production process and challenging yourself to get more complex latte art patterns down. There is always something to keep you challenged and that’s what I love about it. I’m not sure about the exact moment that I decided I wanted to be a barista, but the more you get involved in the industry the more there is to love about it, so I’m not looking for a career change any time soon!

IRMA: Do you have a favourite movie scene about or with coffee?
EMILY COUMBIS: Not from a movie, but like a lot of 20-something-year-olds, I grew up watching Friends. I always wanted a job in a coffee shop like Rachel when I left home to start university. I liked the idea that coffee brings people together, and if you’re not out meeting friends, then sometimes you’re serving some interesting customers!

Follow Emily Coumbis @em321 on Instagram for the most recent coffee art.