Word of Mouth

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:

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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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk