Champion latte artist Scott Luengen has been serving up beautiful coffees at Cup on Russell Street for more than three years.

A barista since the age of 14, Scott Luengen is a man of many talents. He is also studying a dual degree in Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics at the University of Queensland.

Scott’s interest in latte art started when he and Cup owner Josh Russell worked for coffee company Veneziano.

They were really big into competitions so we were doing barista competitions … and I got pushed into doing latte art as well because they needed entrants to get the numbers up. I came second without really trying much and so I decided to take it a little more seriously.

Scott’s dedication paid off. He took out first place in the Australian Latte Art Championship last year and went on to compete against baristas from 33 different countries at the World Championships in Korea. He is currently the 2013 Queensland champion, with his boss Josh and fellow Cup barista Barry Newell hot on his heels, placing second and third respectively.

Scott says quite a bit of preparation and practice is needed ahead of the competitions with each pattern decided in advance. “You can’t just go on stage and whatever comes out comes out. You have to decide what you’re going to do, present that and then replicate it … For the Worlds, I spent a lot of time coming up with patterns, trying to think of what would look good, be technically difficult and have a nice aesthetic to it … the competition encompasses creativity, difficulty and the look and it’s sort of hard to balance that out. Usually some very difficult patterns don’t look good. You’re fitting a lot of stuff into a very small cup and it just looks messy.”

While latte art’s purpose is mainly decorative, Scott says good latte art is an indication that baristas know what they are doing. “Generally, to get really good latte art, the milk foam has to be very good … you have to have that to get it to work in the first place. The milk density and the crema have to be pretty spot on, so doing it right does ensure that those other aspects are correct as well. Some people reckon that the latte art breaks up the crema, and the crema is not the nicest tasting part of the coffee, so breaking it up with milk actually rounds it out … I don’t think that’s a big aspect of it. It’s more decorative.”

Scott says he does get a sense of pride sending out coffees that look really nice, but does not get upset when his creations are destroyed by a spoon moments later.

“It’s a transient thing … with latte art, they’re all a bit like snowflakes; they all look slightly different … it’s nice to just give it to customers.”

Words by Leah Carri  Images by Gillian van Niekerk