Many baristas – both home baristas and pro baristas – have struggled to master the art of latte art, getting the perfect microfoam to allow you to create beautiful, rippling designs on the top of your lattes and cappuccinos. I know that I gave myself a huge pat on the back the first time I pulled off a perfect heart (and cried a little inside when I completely missed the mark on the next four or five after that one good one), but as happy as I am with my own progress, the bar for latte art is being raised every day. Kazuki Yamamoto is someone who is taking the bar far out of reach for most of us with some truly amazing and very creative coffee creations.
The milk foam kitty pictured above is my own personal favorite, but the collection of Peanuts characters gives you a little more insight into just how detailed his works can get. For more, check out his Twitter feed, which is updated regularly with all kinds of impressive art – including portraits in coffee of everyone from anime characters to world leaders.
“Suspended coffee” is a concept that is catching on across the European Union. The term refers to when one customer pays for two cups of coffee – one for him/her and one for someone less fortunate who might come through the cafe later in the day. It’s doing a good deed for someone you don’t know, and it’s not a new concept. The tradition has been around in Naples for more than 100 years.
Caffè sospeso, as it is know in Italian, was a tradition that marked the generosity of the Italians, but it waned in popularity during World War II and after the reconstruction. It got to the point where coffees were only shared during the Christmas season and not the rest of the year. But the past few years have seen an upsurge in the trend in Italy and other EU countries, and more and more people are taking part. There is even a movement to start suspended coffee at Starbucks, which just illustrates how much interest there is in such a program. Time will tell if it does catch on at the coffee giant – and if we end up seeing it at US cafes.
This does remind me of a social experiment that Jonathan Stark did some time back, where he loaded up a Starbucks card and put the code online, so people could use and recharge it at will. There were times when it was empty, but in the overall scheme of things there were just as many people who added to the crowd-funded card as those who used it to get drinks. Going global with the suspended coffee movement would test the system, but perhaps this small-scale experiment is a good illustration that things might work out in the long run.
What makes a coffee shop the “best” is definitely a subjective matter. To some, they’re all about the coffee and don’t mind tiny spaces with standing room only. To others, they want a place where they can sit down and relax for a while with their freshly poured cup, but don’t mind if it wasn’t roasted within the hour on-site. USA Today recently tried to put together a list that everyone can agree on and named America’s Best Coffee Shops. The list features a mix of cozy and sophisticated (ok – mostly “cozy” with an emphasis on artisanal roasters), and has a little bit of something for everyone. Of course, these shops are pretty much only in big cities, but you can still order some of their coffee online and go for your own coffee shop experience at home.
1. Ultimo Coffee, Philadelphia
2. Gimme! Coffee, New York
3. Barista, Portland, Ore.
4. Courier Coffee Roasters, Portland, Ore.
5. Café Grumpy, New York City
6. Lamill Coffee Boutique, Los Angeles
7. Stumptown, Various Locations
8. Ritual Coffee Roasters, San Francisco
9. Joe the Art of Coffee, New York and Philadelphia
10. Intelligentsia, Various Locations
11. Commonplace Coffee Co. House and Roasters, Pittsburgh
12. Milstead & Co., Seattle
13. Everyman Espresso, New York City
14. Peregrine Espresso, Washington, D.C.
15. Artifact Coffee, Baltimore=
I am a big fan of the Iced Tea Lemonades at Starbucks when the weather gets warm, since they’re just sweet enough and very refreshing. Sometimes I get black, but often I get the Green Tea Lemonade, which has a very mellow flavor to it. It was fantastic with the melon syrup that Starbucks offered a few seasons ago, and when I saw that one of my local stores was promoting an Iced Peach Green Tea Lemonade, I knew that I had to give it a try.
The drink is made the same way as the green tea lemonade, but is sweetened with peach syrup. The baristas led me to believe that you can’t get an unsweetened peach tea for that reason (but I only get them sweetened, so that wasn’t a problem for me). The peach syrup has a very mild flavor that adds nice peach notes to the tea without making it too sweet or too peachy. You can still taste the green tea, but the lasting after taste is all peach. Delicious.
This drink hasn’t been rolled out to all Starbucks stores yet, and I’m not entirely sure when it will be, but it is definitely in more stores than it was in its initial test run. If you see it, give it a try. I’ll be drinking many more in the hopes that they keep this one on the menu long-term.