When it comes to latte art, Alistair, our F&B Manager is a true champ. If you don't already know, he's the Singapore National Latte Art 2018 Champion. From making coffee behind the bar to planning operationally, he does it all to ensure your experience at the cafe will be a pleasant one. Outside work, he is all about adventurous fun. Running, hiking, any sport, you name it, he might have tried it. He is recently into cycling, hence you might catch him zipping around the city.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at PPP Coffee?
I'm the F&B manager of PPP Coffee, overseeing operations at both Chye Seng Huat Hardware and PPP Coffee at Funan. My team and I make sure all operations communications are inline with our company direction.
Personally, I'm an outdoor activist who craves being in the arms of nature. I try to plan for a run or hike out to the park to keep myself active. Recently, I've joined cycling craze and have plans for a few night rides with my friends around the city.
- Speaking about coffee, being the champion for the Singapore Latte Art Championship 2018, tell us more about what got you into coffee and latte art?
My first touchpoint with coffee was when the Head Barista of the cafe I used to work in offered me training. I took up an internship with them to learn operations and barista skills. "Always ask yourself how can you make the next cup better!" is what he'll always tell us, to challenge us to push boundaries for better.
My interest in coffee slowly extended to latte art. Thanks to the internet, we have the luxury of looking at the current and upcoming latte artists' work even from overseas. When I was in Osaka, I got the chance to meet up with my latte art idol where he invited me to participate in a latte art showdown he hosted. I was given a chance to have a feel of how the coffee community and competition spirit was in Osaka when I was gifted a ticket to attend the biggest latte art competition in Osaka.
When I came back to Singapore, I started looking for competitions to participate in. I initially did it only for fun as I enjoyed the competition thrill and the joy of the being with the likeminded. Winning the Singapore National Latte Art Championship in 2018 gave me the chance to represent the Singapore in the World Latte Art Championship in the same year. It was truly an eyeopening experience for me as a barista.
- We suppose the most important factor for latte art is the milk. What do you look for when choosing the type of milk to use?
The basis of latte art is in the milk texture, also known as 'micro-foam'. It is attained by steaming milk to the point it is slightly thickened with microscopic, uniform bubbles. Regular milk has fat present hence allowing for micro-foam to easily form. When used to make latte art, regular milk produces a 'sturdier' and wholesome cup.
Dairy-free alternative lacks the fat content hence when trying to steam dairy-free alternatives, we often run into problems. However, we were recently introduced to OATSIDE. I was surprised at how similar the texture of the micro-foam was comparing to regular milk. I could comfortably create basic latte art for it too. The taste of OATSIDE was also not too overpowering, which is another factor I look out for as milk should compliment and bring out the notes of coffee, not mute it.
- Any advice for the budding latte art artists?
Avoid steaming the milk too hot. Approximately 55-60 degree celsius is good, avoid going higher than that. Spend more time texturing the milk instead of stretching the foam. You'll know you're doing it right when you see that beautiful vortex.
When working with dairy-free alternative, always shake the pack before pouring. The steam technique is similar to that of regular milk steaming. Finally, after steaming, give it a good swirl before the pour to get rid of bubbles and ensure consistency. Last but not least, enjoy the process.
- Before we go, tell us, when at home do you still make latte art for all your coffee?
Unfortunately, no, as I don't have an espresso machine at home. Instead at home, I turn to watching people make latte art on either YouTube or Instagram.