"Hey lady, do you think you could turn to the left and relax your face a bit? Maybe think about puppies eating marshmallows or something. What do you say to that?" I asked the customer.
She was a new regular. I'd been making her coffee most days for the past month or so but we were still strangers. We seemed to have struck a silent deal. I'd make her latte to the best of my ability and she would accept it with a polite smile. Sometimes she would say "Thankyou" to which I'd reply, "You're welcome." It was time for the relationship to progress and what better way to do so than making her portrait in the latte's crema? It seemed to me a fine gesture that would mark the start of a beautiful customer-barista friendship.
The triple-ristretto shot was waiting in the cup and I'd steamed the milk to the texture of silk. I only had a small window of time to pour the latte and needed her co-operation, fast. I impatiently swirled the milk in the jug as I waited for her response. If the foam separated it would be too late and I would probably end up making the pattern of a heart, not a love heart either but a human heart, all blobby-like. Worse still, I'd make her a blank canvas, the ultimate sin in the eyes of any barista worth their salt.
"Um...why?" she asked, looking a bit freaked out.
"I'm sorry but there's no time to explain, this milk is on its last legs!" I barked.
She looked to the left as instructed but didn't relax her face. It would have to do. I sighed and gave the milk its final swirl then started to pour, starting at the near end of the cup and making a slow, anti-clockwise circle. Once confident that the crema wouldn't break up on me I looked up and studied her face. She had a strong jaw for a female and I took that into consideration as I made the necessary flicks and swirls to portray her accurately. The cup was nearing capacity so I had to complete the portrait from memory as there just wasn't time for any further glances to double-check the details. I placed the cup on a saucer and rested a spoon next to it then proudly pushed the finished product towards her.
"It's like looking into a tiny mirror, isn't it?" I boasted.
"Oh my god!" she said. "How did you do that? You've even got my mole on there."
"It's all about the relationship you have with the milk," I explained. "If you treat your milk with respect then it will treat you likewise."
"Well...thankyou," she said.
"You're welcome," I replied, smiling sheepishly as she took the latte to her table by the window.