A variation on the simple heart design, the tulip has become a favorite not only in latte-art competitions (yes, that’s a real thing), but also as an elegant flourish atop cappuccinos, in which it’s often difficult to pour a more delicate rosetta.
The basic principles are roughly the same as for any latte-decoration: You’ll need to start with a base of expertly steamed, microfoamed milk, as well as a sturdy and well-pulled espresso shot with a thick head of crema.
The milk and coffee really are key—pouring a beautiful design with subpar ingredients is the latte equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig, so be sure to make the drink as delicious as it is beautiful.
Once you’ve got the elements ready to go, the technique is all about patience, timing, and control. A great barista learns to “read” the milk as it marries with the coffee, making sure to drive the design by primarily focusing on the proximity of the milk pitcher to the surface of the coffee, as well as the volume of steamed milk he or she is pouring.
And as with any other little professional flourish a master might, well, master, it takes a lot of practice. Don’t give up just because your first tulip looks like a textbook photo of a ruptured appendix. Stick with it, and one day maybe you’ll be going for the gold.
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