#59 – Cappuccino: lost and forgotten

dav

 

Before going around Lisbon Specialty places I was living in an oblivion regarding cappuccino, being honest.

 

I wrote about lattes, because I stopped seeing any point in them. It was not something from the outside that I witnessed. It was actually making barista shifts, and getting to that conclusion. I made the point in that post, and I think I will stick to it. Lattes lost sense because cappuccino increased in size, and barista are lacking training to make different kinds of microfoam. And I am not mean, for God’s sake XD

 

I meantioned the mystery of flat white lots of times – everybody has it in the menu, or tries to have, but there is no agreement of what it actually is. Should it be a double shot or single? in a 150ml size cup, or in 190ml? How it should be served, ceramics or glass?

 

 

Everybody likes flat white, but nobody knows the universal answers to these questions, and now even less, after Starbucks includind it in their menu, and us in specialty places dealing with the the terminology Starbucks is using to talk with their customers. Of course you understand what I am talking about. About guys coming and asking tall latte, or grande cappuccino, or frappuccino, etc. And now a flat white.

 

 

To make a point, for example, today I had a lady asking for a flat white in a glass. And I LOVE when guests know what they want! No jokes, this is the best thing that can happen. I don’t even care if it goes against the “rules” of the industry – I love to feel that I can please, I guess, and with somebody who knows what she wants it is easy.

 

 

Sorry for deviating from the topic…

 

But ok, cappuccino.
What is the problem with the cappuccino, you think?
I would say, the situation is pretty curious. And I guess this situation actually has influenced relatively new rules of the Barista Championship, when you have to prepare a milk drink course. Not a cappuccino course, as before. I think they had to change the rules because of this, among all the other reasons, like pushing the creativity and playing with the milk/coffee ratio.

 

So what is the problem.
Although all the specialty places have cappuccino in the menu, you rarely get it.
You almost never get it.
The problem in most of the cases is thin foam.

 

 

You get a milk drink, yes. But it looks like baristas are either so focused on practicing complicated, or not so complicated latte art, that they are subconsciously (or consciously, I don’t know) use thinner milk for everything. Lattes, flat whites, and yes, cappuccinos, get the same treatment.
I have nothing against latte art, oh no, I love it and I think it is very important, not only because of the visual presentation, but also as a first step to treating coffee with love and attention. People like beautiful things, and they like to be able to make beauty as well – and it is much more probable a barista getting interested in latte art, than in measuring TDS and experimenting brewing techniques.
The thing is, you cannot do much complicated latte art on cappuccinos. The maximum you can do, with the foam being appropriate, is a tulip swan, I guess, if taking somethig more complicated than heart and tulip.
When you start to practice wiggling, definition, wave base, small details – you will need thinner (and hotter) milk. It is impossible to do it with cappuccino foam. If you check out World Barista Championship, cappuccino course, and pay attention at latte art – you will find nobody doing that. Best baristas in the world will be serving visually pretty simple milk drinks – mostly hearts, and 2-3 layered tulips. And for a reason.
No rosettas on cappuccinos.
Good news is that it is rare to find a boiling hot cappuccino in Specialty places in Lisbon. The last one like that, that burnt my tongue, I had in a new Simpli Cafe, but they don’t serve specialty coffee, although they do roast coffee, so I am not counting that one. Specialty places in Lisbon are not boiling their cappuccinos.

 

 

 

Here is the list of the places (no names) – and the cappuccino evaluation.
I evaluated temperature of the drink, espresso/milk balance, sweetness, latte art, foam quality.
1 – well centered tulip, good contrast, thick foam, sweet milk, presence of the epresso/milk balance – CAPPUCCINO
2 – extremely thin foam, no latte art on top, nice drinkable temperature, good espresso/milk balance, on the chocolaty and nutty spectre – NOT CAPPUCCINO
3 – temperature of the drink colder than desirable, thin foam, tulip with the wave base on top with the very good contrast, centered, woody and papery taste – NOT CAPPUCCINO
4 –  very hot, thin foam, rosetta on top, overheated milk, around 200 ml, coffee/milk ratio out of balance, burnt, bitter, not sweet – NOT CAPPUCCINO
5 – nice drinkable temperature, thin foam, sweet, heart on top, around 180 ml – NOT CAPPUCCINO
The cappuccinos were evaluated in these places: Fabrica Coffee Shop (Rua das Flores, twice, 2 different baristas), Montana Lisboa Cafe, Wish Chiado and Copenhagen Coffee Lab (Feira da Ladra).
 

 

(I remind you, that I work in one of these places, but I asked another barista to prepare a cappuccino for the evaluation here, and the person did not know that it is going to be evaluated. And this cappuccino is not the only CAPPUCCINO here, it also had a thin foam).

 

 

So, as you can see, out of 5 cappuccinos I drank, only 1 turned out to be a cappuccino.
What is it? Tendency? Lack of training? Desire to be a latte art rock star? Not understanding of what is a cappuccino? Is this only in Lisbon, or in your city as well? Something we can do with it?

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