Thai Patton pours masterful latte art at The Cup Espresso Cafe

Thai Patton is serious about espresso. He's a smooth operator behind the bar at The Cup Espresso Café, 1521 Pearl Street in Boulder, pulling shots using a rhythmic routine, creating perfect foam, shouting out morning orders over the din of an ever-present crowd.

There's more to making a latte than steaming a little milk, though. I once saw Patton give a lesson to a group of seasoned bartenders, and he talked about adjusting the size of the grind when the weather turns to avoid bitter-tasting ristretto shots, the secret for creating perfect foam at a perfect temperature, why you can't make a cappuccino from skim milk (without milk fat, the foam just falls away) -- and the importance of latte art, which is part of the tradition and shows the integrity of the craft.

Every drink that Patton pours gets art, even if it's just a simple heart atop a brimming to-go beverage. He creates some masterpieces, too, including bicycles and a skull and crossbones.

Last time I was in for my morning cappuccino, Patton created a menagerie of animals for my viewing pleasure:

The peacock
The peacock
The squirrel
The squirrel
The butterfly
The butterfly

Patton says he feels a sense of responsibility to make the best drinks possible when working with beans that have passed through so many hands, from growers to roasters, before finally hitting the espresso machines.

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