We wrap up our interview with the 2020 U.K. Latte Art Champ by chatting about his designs and tips for aspiring artists.
BY TANYA NANETTI
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Alessandro Zengiaro
Yesterday, we began learning more about Alessandro Zengiaro, an Italian coffee professional who recently won the 2020 U.K. Latte Art Championship. Apart from being incredibly innovative at latte art, he is also a technician and account manager for Assembly Coffee. Today, we learn more about the latte art side of his coffee background.
Tanya Nanetti: Going back to latte art, you’re something different from a barista—you’re really an artist. How do you pick your patterns? How did you choose the ones for the competition? And how long did you practice them?
Alessandro Zengiaro: For this competition, the unlucky situation of the pandemic in a way helped me. I was waiting for the competition for almost two years, and it could have happened any time, so I really practiced a lot. About how I choose my patterns—well, first of all I can say that lately I’m always trying to create something new. I really don’t want to copy someone else. Doing this is much more satisfying, even because in my opinion the latte art is really art … and if it’s art, to be more meaningful (it) should be original.
Plus, a while ago one of my friends was helping me “recover” from a bad (at least in my mind) defeat and he told me something like, “Don’t worry, keep doing what you like, what you believe in, and soon your moment will come.”
And that’s what I’m trying to do, trying to do something I love, new patterns I’m proud of, something I cannot wait to go on stage and show to the judges. And when this happens, I really enjoy the feeling of “this is something I’ve created, this is something that is mine.”
About the patterns I’ve drawn at the U.K. championship … well, they’re all connected to parts of my life. “The Rider” is inspired by two guys from my workplace. One is the founder of one of the companies I work for (Volcano Coffee Works, the sister company of Assembly Coffee). He’s from New Zealand, he collects old bikes and he’s a really awesome rider. The other is Tom, my manager, a super cool dude and the one that actually taught me everything I’ve learned in the last two years (repairing coffee machines and grinders, and all the rest). I’m really connected with both of them, and I’m so happy I was able to create something inspired by them.
Talking about Kobe Bryant … well, maybe you cannot tell because I’m not really tall, but I’ve played basketball a lot. It’s always been one of my true passions, and I’ve always thought about doing a drawing about it. And then, when Kobe passed away last year, it just came spontaneously. He was one of my heroes and I remember trying this pattern the day right after that terrible accident.
Superman is again based on one of my passions, and that’s not comics, as you might think, but it’s music. “Superman” by Five for Fighting is one of my favorite songs, so I started to think if Superman could be something cool to draw in a cup … and yes, it worked out pretty good. It felt especially cool to draw the skyline: I’ve never (seen) anyone do it, and it came out so nicely!
Plus, in my mind it started as two different patterns sets (that one together with another where Superman suffers from Kryptonite, from one of my favorite lines in the song), and I worked a lot on both of them before deciding to use just one … so I’m really proud of it, because I’ve worked on this idea for almost two years, and it changed so much in the meantime.
With this victory you’ve become a reference point in the latte art scene. Any suggestions for anyone who wants to follow the same path?
I’ve got just a simple tip: It’s all about patience and perseverance. Latte art is based a lot on muscle memory … you have to just keep practicing, day after day. Keep trying until things are going the way you want. Attending latte art classes for sure helps, but the key is really practicing.
And also have a lot of patience: You’re (probably) not going to win after six months of practicing, or at your first competition … but you just need to keep pushing.
Last but not least: There are so many reasons behind competing. What about you? Why do you compete?
For sure (it) is not for the money, or for the glory. One of the reasons is the rush of adrenaline when you finish your competition, raise your hand and say, “Time!” It’s a moment so powerful!
But when it all started, it was to feel more like I was part of the community, to go to expos and feel more involved with others like me. And then I started to succeed, and of course the idea of going to the world championship started to come into my mind, and here I am—waiting to see what’s going to happen next!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.