More and more the standard skill set of the barista includes the flourish of pouring a heart or fleurette on the top of your cappuccino or latte. These pictures are lovely, but do they actually add to the flavour of the drink itself? Broadly, the answer is yes!
To paint a picture on your cup, the canvas must first exist to be painted upon. In this case the canvas is the crema of the espresso. A nice dark and consistent crema usually signifies a shot of espresso pulled with care, often with a high dosage and an emphasis on the beginning of the shot, where the darkness, richness, and flavour lives.
The paint for this picture, to extend this tortured metaphor, is textured milk. Textured milk has a microfoam. This means exactly what is in the name: tiny, almost invisible bubbles. The texture of a microfoam is similar to shaving foam, but extremely thin as a layer on top of the coffee. This creamy layer of milk-foam can only be successfully produced when milk is not overheated and burnt. Burnt milk tastes that way, it lacks sweetness and creaminess which is the flavour profile which we strive for to blend with the chocolate and hazelnut profiles which rise up from the espresso underneath. Milk which can make a pretty picture is predisposed to taste creamy, blend well with espresso, and thus create a delicious coffee.
All that being said there is always the potential that a coffee coming your way with a tulip or a fleurette on it doesn’t have the depth of flavour that meticulous care brings to a coffee. The chances, however, that the contents of that coffee are delicious and well crafted are much higher. So roll the dice, hope for a picture, take a taste, and at the very least it will be pleasant to look at.