Practice Makes Perfect for World Latte Art Champ Manuela Fensore

In just her second year of competing, the Italian latte artist took home the top prize at the 2019 World Latte Art Championship in Berlin in June.


Photos by Jeff Hann for World Coffee Events

From the editor: This year, the World Coffee Championships in Berlin crowned four new champions, and we have been chatting with them at Barista Magazine Online. Our first installment of this four-part series can be found here with 2019 World Cup Tasters champ Daniel Horbat, and for the second installment we interviewed 2019 World Coffee In Good Spirits champ Dan Fellows. Next we talked to Russia’s Sergey Blinnikov, the champion of the World Cezve/Ibrik Championship. Today, we conclude this series with a conversation with Manuela Fensore, the 2019 World Latte Art Champion.

Though Manuela Fensore has been practicing and perfecting her latte art skills since the mid-2010s, she has only been competing since 2018. The competitor from Italy was reluctant to enter the world of coffee competitions, but her group of friends and colleagues—whom she calls Team Italy—pushed her to take part.

Since then, Manuela has achieved rapid success. After becoming the latte art champion of Italy in 2018 and placing 12th at the 2018 World Latte Art Championship, she returned in 2019, again winning her national competition and returning to the world stage at the 2019 World Latte Art Championship in Berlin in June. This time she broke through, winning the 2019 World Latte Art Championship.

We talked to Manuela about how she got interested in latte art, her intense practice schedule, and her advice for fellow competitors.

Manuela Fensore celebrates atop the shoulders of her teammates upon winning the 2019 World Latte Art Championship.

Chris Ryan: Can you describe how you got interested in latte art?

Manuela Fensore: I became interested in this fantastic discipline thanks to my partner, Carmen Clemente, who was able to convey the basics to help me build more skill with milk. Later I attended my first latte art course in 2015, with Luigi Lupi, where I learned more techniques, and from there I have progressed further and further.

How did you improve your skills as a latte artist? 

The thing that always excited me was to see the results of my constant work; this gave me the strength to persist. I did 8 1/2 hours of trainings a day, and improved more and more. Even after work I would close myself in my club and spend the remaining few hours at night to train.

I understand you only started competing in 2018. Why did you decide to start competing, and what do you like about it? 

Had it not been for Carmen and Luigi, who entered me in my first competition even though I didn’t really want to do it, I might never have had the courage to compete!

I started competing in 2018, with my first Italian national team, which led me to victory and a chance to compete at the World Latte Art Championship. Then I re-participated in 2019, qualifying again for the World Latte Art Championship in Berlin.

As I participated in milk art competitions, I always felt more confident about myself and the goal I wanted to accomplish. The competition has always excited me—the more I adhere to it, the more I want the experience to be repeated!

After placing 12th at the 2018 World Latte Art Championship, Manuela returned to the competition this year to earn first place.

For this competition, how did you decide on your designs of a horse, an eagle, and a parrot? Can you describe how you practiced for this competition to get the pours exact? 

The drawings that I wanted to bring to the competition this year were designed by the whole Team Italy, composed of Chiara Bergonzi, Mary Mauro, Anna Mauri, Daniela Mauro, Carmen Clemente, and Irvine Quek, the 2018 World Latte Art champion. With the designs I wanted to bring precision, technique, cleanliness, and creativity.

And so we gave voice to our imagination, bringing figures that had never been seen before!

After we found the figures, I trained constantly, night and day, to define the technique that I would then bring to the competition, but above all to make me seem confident, serene, and happy in front of the competition judges and the public of the Berlin fair.

Manuela’s parrot design was one of three animal-themed latte art pours she executed during the Berlin competition.

What was your experience like at the championship in Berlin? How did it feel to win, and what did it mean to you?

It was an indescribable, unique experience that made me feel very strong emotions!

I feel good after my victory; I feel fulfilled and happy. But above all, I feel that my long and hard work of preparation paid off. And the fact that I managed to win is also thanks to my Team Italy, who supported me until the end!

For me it is a huge redemption for all those people who have never believed in me and, indeed, spoke badly and didn’t value me. Being able to prove my worth today is a great satisfaction!

Manuela advises other latte art competitors to work their hardest and never give up.

Do you have any advice for future latte art competitors? 

To all future competitors of latte art, I advise you to work hard and never give up your dreams, and to pursue them always, because sooner or later they will come true, as it happened to me.

Finally, can you tell us a bit about your business, Barlady?

We have a latte art academy in Milan called the Barlady Cafè Academy. It’s a small and cozy meeting place for milk artists, where you can learn the basics of this beautiful discipline. We dedicate ourselves mainly to individual courses, in order to devote all our attention to our children, so that they can concentrate and have a more concrete practice.

About Chris Ryan 263 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.