Milk wizards master the art of coffee

PERFECT PICTURE: Takahito Koyanagi can draw tulips in his coffee.
PERFECT PICTURE: Takahito Koyanagi can draw tulips in his coffee.

We pioneered the flat white and many of us can't get through the morning without one. Reporter Kelly Dennett finds out what goes into making the perfect cup of coffee and whether we really appreciate it.

30ml coffee

There's a story behind every cup of coffee you drink.

MILK WIZARD: Takahito Koyanagi has been learning latte art for the past year.
MILK WIZARD: Takahito Koyanagi has been learning latte art for the past year.

Cris Fuzaro can tell you not only where your coffee beans are from but the name of the family that grew them and in which South American village.

It turns out the influence of climate and growing techniques isn't just exclusive to the taste of your wine.

Coffee beans also bear significant hallmarks of who has grown them and how.

That's why the barristas at Parnell's Espresso Workshop can be more than a little sad when the last of their sack of favourite beans is gone.

They import them from the likes of Central and South America and roast them daily in a small room out the back of their espresso bar.

Each sack is unique to the particular climate of the region and the variances in their season that year.

In short, no bean is ever reproduced exactly the same again.

Even how long they're sitting in the sun waiting to get loaded on to the ship can have an impact on their taste.

Many of the countries owner Andrew Smart orders from rely on sacking to package the coffee and are yet to jump on the sealed packaging bandwagon.

Here at Espresso Workshop they are serious about their coffee.

Located behind the main street and down a little alley the bar is easy to miss.

They rely on word of mouth and a true coffee lover's nose to follow the aroma to their location.

Tasting notes are supplied for each of the beans and customers can request a cup of coffee from their favourite region.

Different brewing methods are also on offer and Ms Fuzaro says she's constantly tasting the coffee to ensure the grinder is producing the best flavour.

She adapts it's speed accordingly.

Does the general public appreciate what goes into their cup of coffee?

Mr Smart and Ms Fuzaro both say no.

People just know what tastes good, they say.

Unless you're tasting different types of beans side by side it can be difficult for the average consumer to discern various fruity, nutty or even floral flavours in coffee.

You can't underestimate the importance of first getting the flavour of the bean just right, otherwise the coffee is doomed from the beginning, they say.

100ml whole milk

Sorry skimmed milk fans, full fat milk is best for a silky smooth coffee.

Takahito Koyanagi only picked up the steaming wand and milk jug for the first time a year ago.

He moved to New Zealand from Japan 18 months ago and became a fulltime barrista at Auckland City's Grind on High.

After watching the skill involved in etching a leaf or flower into a flat white or latte he decided he wanted to learn.

He bought himself his own coffee machine and practised at home for hours. The hard work paid off.

In November he was officially crowned the New Zealand Barrista Guild's Best Milk Wizard in Auckland.

Yes that's right, milk wizard.

What you need to do to become a milk wizard is pay attention to the milk you're steaming.

Constantly check the temperature with your hand, listen to the hissing noises and it will tell you when the milk is getting too bubbly.

You don't want it to be too frothy.

Then the pour.

Mr Koyanagi implements a technique not unlike mixing muffin batter.

Too quick and the crema becomes too thick.

Too slow and the crema isn't thick enough.

Mr Koyanagi knows how to draw a tulip but confesses to not being able to conjur up a leaf just yet.

The wizard is working on it though.

Central Leader