Interview: Alexander Ntatsos, barista and Latte Art champion
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Alexander Ntatsos is a barista at Lofbergs Coffee in Stockholm, Sweden. He is the current Swedish Latte Art Champion (two times champion!), and has competed in the world latte art championships in 2018 and 2019. He chats to FoodTribe about latte art, making a really great cup of coffee, and Sproud pea milk.
How did you get into coffee in the first place?
It was summer 07’ when I got my first experience behind a coffee bar. It was a summer job, just before my studies in architecture. It was not an easy start at all, as I was inexperienced for such a demanding coffee bar in Athens.
What’s your perfect coffee?
Well, I have many origins and varieties of coffee that I really like. If I had to choose one, it would be Caparó amarelo natural from amazing family-owned farm of Santa Rita in Brazil. But I have only one favorite method of brewing: Clever Dripper. It gives you consistency in brewing, even if you are not a barista, and it’s super easy to use and clean. There’s a new model coming up and I’m looking forward to it.
What is it that you like about Sproud pea milk?
Compared to previous generations of plant-based products, based on soy, nuts and grains, the pea is superior in every way. It's nutritious, pure and has a low carbon footprint. Besides “no milk, no gluten and no soy”, the pea is also free of (or low in) a lot of other not-so-good stuff. It’s non-GMO and does not contain any cholesterol or allergens. And it’s low in sugar and fat.
How does Sproud compare to dairy milk?
Sproud is lactose-, soy-, nut- and gluten-free, making it a safe choice for those with food allergies or intolerances. It contains fewer calories than cow’s milk, making it a more weight-loss-friendly beverage. If we think environmentally, cow’s milk requires 25 times more water to produce than pea not to mention greenhouse gas emissions.
How would you describe the flavour of Sproud, especially when used in coffee?
When it comes to beverage such as cappuccino, Sproud fits better that any dairy alternative. What happens is that the coffee flavour is stronger above all. There’s no sweetness like you get with oat milk, but a full bodied beverage and a pleasant mouthfeel experience. There’s no greenish flavour like you get with soy milk, or the nutty aftertaste like almond milk. There’s is something else that Sproud is surprisingly great with and that is chocolate. For someone who likes hot chocolate, they should definitely try it.
Is Sproud a good milk for baristas to use as a dairy alternative?
Baristas are not happy making a cappuccino from soy or almond milk. From the latte art prospective, I used Sproud to practice for my second world championship in Berlin. I was able to perform advanced patterns. It has a reach and creamy texture and it’s easy to perform latte art. From a flavour prospective, it will not overpower your coffee, but it will be a nice mix, allowing the coffee to keep its profile.
When did you first start doing latte art, and how did you get into it?
I started latte art in 2010 by performing basic patterns for few years. It was 2016 when I had my first training from the 4x Romanian champion. The same year I moved to Sweden where I practiced alone intensively. To compete for the first time, I had a lot of help from Greek champion 2015 Nikos Mpelis, who has been by my side since then in every upcoming competition. I would say he was my inspiration in the first place as I was admiring his talent and career.
Would you have any tips for anyone wanting to get into latte art?
Knowing nothing is the best way to start properly. My advice is to find someone who can show you the basic principles and techniques of latte art. That means: good espresso extraction, and proper milk frothing and control pouring. Understanding those basic things means everything will be easy to go on.
What’s the best latte art you’ve done?
The best latte art is not defined only by difficultly or creativity, but also from creating something new, a pattern that no one has ever done before. That’s a challenge for a latte artist to make a step forward. My favourite pattern I came up with was a Viking, for the world championship 2019.