August 30, 2010

Back on the horse

A previous hiatus was met with a decree that it would be the last, that I would resume my daily posting. Clearly, that proved false. Do not, however, mistake this post as something of a forced comeback, a Lance Armstrong-esque obligation, doomed to fail in similar style. Rather, this is an embracing of what I enjoy, writing what I want, when I want, about that which I like. Coffee, in case you were wondering. And so, provided I do not lose interest in writing (unlikely) or coffee (impossible), things will resume at a reasonable clip. All that said, on with the blogging.

My affection for milk steaming has been well documented here. I find it a simple means of creating something both beautiful to behold, and intoxicating to savor. Stretched milk is at once creamy and sweet, rich and yet silky. It is everything self professed chocoholics claim to enjoy about their treat of choice.

Only steamed milk has one particular advantage over chocolate, in this regard. If I were, say, a devotee of chocolate, I would have great difficulty purchasing it fresh, that is, having been created moments before by a master of the art. Furthermore, I would not have been privy to the full sensory experience involved in creating my delicious little masterpiece.

But say I desire a latte, cappuccino, or perhaps even that marriage of steamed milk and chocolate, the mocha. Provided, of course, that the barista on hand is skilled, and that they take the necessary time to stretch the milk properly, I can walk to any number of neighborhood cafes, and nab a piece of creamy art.

Of course, drinking steamed milk is only half the fun for me; frankly, it might even be slightly less. The steaming itself is the act from which I derive the greatest pleasure. The reasons for this escape me, to some extent, but I suppose it has something to do with the marriage of honest to goodness hands on labor, and that ever ethereal concept of art. Steaming milk, to the barista, is perhaps analogous to preparing a signature dish for a chef. Ultimately, it can be broken down as a base service industry task. But why on earth would you want to break something so beautiful down to its base parts? Let it be what it is, which is so much more.

Of course, on the subject of art, the pour itself, and the latte art that results, must be addressed. More specifically, the fact that I've been unable to craft any such thing for a while now. The milk pitchers at SBC have a lovely pear shape, and a reasonable size, given the need to steam milk for frequent large drinks. But there is a problem, and it is a glaring, horrid thing. The pitchers, for all that they do well, do not have a spout. Thus, myself and my fellow baristas are unable to indulge in that last little bit of self aggrandizement. Finally, I have decided that the situation demands fixing, and so have resolved to do just that. I will buy a pitcher, with a spout. And, not surprisingly, I am absolutely thrilled to do so.

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