June 27, 2014 at 10:33 AM
FANWOOD, NJ — For Zach Belka, supervisor at Mara's Cafe, there is truly an art to making lattes.
Either freehand by simply pouring steamed milk into the coffee, or by using toothpicks and spoons for more complicated designs, Belka can draw hearts, tulips, bears, swans or Indian chiefs.
The 22-year-old Westfield native started experimenting with making coffee art while working in coffee shops when he lived on the West Coast for a few years. Belka says that he improved his technique with online research and through trial and error.
“I wanted to be more creative with coffee although I'm not a really artistic person,” said Belka.
“Some of the customers have taken notice and will ask especially for the drawings. It's all about presentation.”
In less than 30 seconds, the design is ready due to a lot of practice and powerful coffee equipment. Using whole milk is key.
“It’s really hard to make a proper latte with skim milk or two percent milk because there are too many air bubbles,” he explained. “Once steamed, the milk should have the consistency of paint.”
"It took me about a year to perfect my technique. You need some patience and concentration. The hearts were easy to do and then I slowly worked my way up to more detailed things like pumpkins or bears."
To watch Belka make his café art, click here:
Belka usually works weekdays from 7 a.m. until about 3 p.m. and Fridays from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. Next time you see him, ask if he can create a little latte art for you.