Get To Know Our Espress Yourself 2020 Finalists

The Espress Yourself Latte Art Challenge for 2020 has come to an end, with baristas battling it out on social media before finally battling it out in person. Latte art is always admired from beginner coffee drinkers to the coffee connoisseurs. An unexpected flick of the wrist can create the most beautiful pieces of art to brighten up anyone’s morning.

Espress Yourself 2020 Finalists from left: Gabriel Cuello, Isabella Brown, Brian Kim

The Espress Yourself Finalists for this year turned up with all their gear ready (sans actual coffee machine, beans and milk) and were eager to show the judges their best latte art tricks.

Held at the new Burns & Ferrall showroom, first up, we have Isabella Brown.

Isabella Brown is a country girl from up north who moved to Auckland at 17 to study animals. Brown worked at a cafe in Blockhouse Bay and instantly fell in love with making coffee.

Brown has been a barista for seven years.

“I am inspired by the way the milk moves in the espresso. I love the science behind why it does what it does, as it gives you an understanding of how to control it,” explained Brown.

Brown is continuously inspired by the amazing latte art/coffee community online. Working on her pours that are inspired by fellow members of the community is a nice challenge!

Brown’s favourite technique is the free-pour technique. It’s hard to master, but satisfying and rewarding. It’s raw and requires you to create something without being able to ‘edit’ it.

Isabella Brown - creative, Espress Yourself 2020

She would love to work on her free pour animal and custom designs more – however, this is put on hold at the moment as she doesn’t have access to a machine.

“A good cup of coffee takes passion and understanding – and not just from barista. It’s everything down to the soil the beans are grown in and the grass the cows eat. The roasters and the beautiful machines and methods we use to brew.”

The barista is the one who puts it all together. For Brown, the latte art is a way to not only show off barista skills, but to honour the whole journey the same way a chef would not just throw the food on a place and send it out.

“Latte art is like the cherry on top.”

Second to the coffee machine was Brian Kim.

Originally from South Korea, Kim is currently a barista at Eddies Brunch Parlour and Espleth Bakery in Mount Maunganui. He makes coffee every day whilst also helping out with his wife’s sushi business!

Being a barista for four years, he is inspired by the different styles of latte art created by famous baristas around the world. However, when it comes to creating his own latte art, his lifestyle and the people around him inspires him the most.

Kim’s favourite technique is free-pour.

“I try to pour as soon as I can once the shot is ready to give a perfect contrast and balance,” explained Kim.

“To add more details to the free pour, I love to use the ‘dry foam’ method to draw animals like seahorses, eagles and others.”

Brian Kim - creative, Espress Yourself 2020

In terms of Kim’s latte art ‘goals’ he is focusing on the basics, like a free pour heart, tulip, and swan.

“I often practice basics more than patterns like an eagle or a pegasus. I just love how they are developed and I see myself improving day by day.”

The ‘perfect’ cup of coffee does not have one ‘right’ answer, explained Kim. Generally, a good cup of coffee comes from a good blend of beans that are roasted the right way.

“The most popular coffee here in New Zealand is a flat white, so great shiny milk will add to the flavour.”

Kim acknowledges every step of making a good cup of coffee. From the farmers who grow the trees, the pickers, the roasters, all the way to the barista.

“I respect all the people who are behind the scenes in this beautiful industry.”

As for advice to give budding baristas, he warns that baristas wake up much earlier than other people, and baristas also create long and complicated orders at times – with a smile. And of course, the odd ‘grumpy’ customer here and there. However, he feels that the barista’s purpose is to spread kindness and happiness around the world.

Last, but not least, we have Gabriel Hernán Cuello.

Cuello moved to New Zealand 10 years ago from Bueno Aires. Everything he does in life revolves around art. He is a musician, actor as well as of course a barista at Longshot/Longroom in Ponsonby.

Being a barista for the last 9 years he aims to surprise coffee lovers with his latte art. The way people react to his work is all the motivation he needs to start something new.

Cuello loves to work with chocolate toppings with his latte art, turning normal cups of coffees into something that looks like a painting is what is he loves the most.

Gabriel Cuello - creative, Espress Yourself 2020

The love that a barista puts into each cup of coffee is what makes a cup of coffee good.

“If you don’t feel like making coffees, don’t make it,” exclaimed Cuello. Now that’s some solid advice we can all get behind.

For budding baristas, Cuello advises that it is very important to understand the taste of the coffee. What does a good coffee taste like? It’s not something everyone just ‘knows’ and/or appreciates.

“When you really get to know the taste, you’re on the road. Practice is the only secret if you want to be a good barista.”

Special thanks to Vistasoy for sponsoring this event.