Latte Art

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Real talk for a minute. Our love of coffee began back when we were seventeen, when Mary Kate and Ashley were being snapped by paparazzi carrying around venti Starbucks on the NYU campus. Forgive us? The culture of coffee has come a long way since then and so has our appreciation for it. A community of coffee aficionados has emerged in Hamilton and the people involved are enthusiastic about helping each other out, recommending other coffee shops and helping to open new places. "We are seeing a different coffee culture focused on unique and farm-specific coffees starting with shops like Cannon Coffee, Manual Labour and others," says Geoff Woodley, Lead Roaster at Detour Coffee, "It's great to see, because they're putting the same amount of attention to sourcing and brewing coffee that people do with wine or food and the results are amazing."

At our house we enjoy espresso based drinks on the daily, but we have always been curious how exactly to create the beautiful designs you see when you order a latte at coffee shops like Detour. When owners Crystal and Kaelin invited us to attend a barista workshop guided by Geoff, who happens to be the Central Canada Barista Champion we were excited.

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When we first arrived, baristas Will and Momiji were lining up different kinds of coffee beans for the cupping session. "Cupping is extremely important for us," says Geoff, "We cup to source coffees, figure out what roast tastes best for a new coffee and in our quality control. It allows us to compare a lot of different coffees side-by-side without worrying about brewing variables." In a coffee cupping session, the table is set with a sample of the green raw coffee, the roasted coffee and some ground coffee. We were guided to sample the brew at various stages—from inhaling the fragrance of the grounds to breaking the crust to slurping the coffee with spoons. Initially you feel a bit silly slurping, but that's how its done.

Not unlike a wine tasting, this ritual helps you appreciate the subtle flavours and characteristics of brews. With roasters sourcing from around the world the coffees produced today are as varied as wine, so cupping helps you to develop a discerning taste. "Detour spends a lot of time sourcing coffee," Geoff tells us, "We will try five, ten, twenty coffees before buying just one when we know that it's clean and sweet and amazing." Sometimes Detour buys directly from a farmer or an operation that represents a group of farmers and other times they will work with importers that hold the same values they do. "We feel that doing business as fairly as possible can only benefit everyone in the equation and having transparency in sourcing is a really good first step," Geoff explains, "We feel that the more we know, the more we can operate a company that not only serves the best coffee possible but does so in a manner that helps people along the way and can continue to serve great coffee in the future." Shortly after our barista workshop, he and  Kaelin were flying out to Honduras and Costa Rica to visit some farmers and learn more about the process of growing coffee. 

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Following the cupping session, Geoff and Will led us through the ins and outs of espresso extraction and showed us how to adjust grind. After learning the basics of milk steaming, we observed how to create optimal milk for pouring latte art. We had a moment of "Really? That's how it's done!?" It's not at all what we expected. Then we each gave it a go. While our latte art was more abstract than anything, Geoff admitted it took him three or four months of working at Detour before creating anything that resembled art in a latte. He also let us in on a great tip for practising on your own. Use a steaming pitcher full of cold water and just a single tiny drop of dish soap. It steams up just like milk and lets you practice without wasting milk! Detour offers espresso and latte art workshops for the public at their roasting facility in Burlington. Check out their website for workshop dates!

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After our barista workshop we enjoyed another incredible dinner prepared by Chef Chris Beltrano. At one point during our dinner, we considered wandering back to the kitchen and applauding. The menu for this week is just too good. So go. Treat yourself to dinner and the ginger meringue crunch for dessert. You'll be glad you did.

Detour Cafe 
41 King Street West
Dundas, ON

Stephanie Trendocher