In the world of latte art, there are two main camps: Team Free Pour and the Etchers. Free pourers are the traditionalists: They make their designs by pouring heated, "stretched" milk into espresso, creating beautiful designs where the milk and coffee don't quite want to dissolve into one another. It's a test of how well they've aerated and textured the milk, and, of course, of how well they understand the motions and physics of the pour. Etchers, though, are the tool users: They will draw into the milk, dragging coffee into the dense foam, and boom! You have patterns, designs and the occasional portrait of Stockard Channing.
While they may battle each other for primacy and respect, Salon's team of coffee lovers decided to stay away from the fray and go with another, utterly subjective criteria: How happy do these cups of coffee make us? It was hard to choose just five winners, but we did ... and we're showing you our 36 other favorites besides.
To see them all view the slideshow.
Special congratulations go to our winners, who will receive fabulous prizes courtesy of Bodum. They are:
- Robert Hoos, Refuge Coffee Bar, Cincinnati: Is it a seahorse? A dragon? Salon staffers had trouble deciding, but the consensus was that it looked pretty badass, whatever it was.
- Jason Duncan, Cafe Evoke, Oklahoma City: Similar to the classic latte heart, Jason's tulip has an understated, cheery elegance that makes us feel like it's gonna be a good day.
- Jonathan Pascual, Empire State South, Atlanta: His rendering of Snoopy skipping across the foam was an automatic crowd-pleaser. Because, c'mon, how can you see those floppy ears in your cup and not crack a smile?
- Jesse Raub, Intelligentsia Coffee, Chicago: Jesse's gigantic classic rosetta is free pour at its best: deceptively simple, but the intricacy of the design is mind-blowing if you stare at it long enough.
These four will get a set of Canteen insulated glasses, made of lovely-to-hold, super-light borosilicate glass.
AND THE GRAND PRIZE GOES TO...
Elizabeth Gray of Muddy Waters Coffee Shop in Elizabeth City, N.C.: Both her swimming carp and woman (who we think looks remarkably like actress Stockard Channing) -- so insanely precise, so detailed -- left us wondering, how did she do that? As the grand prize winner, Elizabeth will receive the Canteen glasses and a classic Chambord French press.
And again, you can check out the winning entries -- and some others we just wanted to show off -- just click on the link below.