Trace Brewing prepares for Pittsburgh Coffee Week

Nick Fernbaugh | Staff Writer | Joe Burns (right) indulges Jason Farahi (left) in the fundamentals of latte art and how to elevate the presentation to create new forms.

Nick Fernbaugh | staff writer

The smell of coffee filled the air at Trace Brewing as many people gathered to learn latte art in Bloomfield on Tuesday night for a Latte Art Workshop.

Many people visited the brewery to take part in a workshop with a casual atmosphere of people talking and learning from the lead director of the event, Joe Burns. Burns is the coffee director and co-owner of Ghost Coffee Collab, a cafe collaborative that runs inside Trace Brewery in the earlier hours of the day.

The workshop was used to train people for the big downtown event coming up in two weeks: Pittsburgh Coffee Week.

“There’s no pressure,” said Jason Farahi, a local retail business owner who participated in the latte art. He appreciated the welcoming atmosphere for new latte artists like himself.

“It seems like the really good people here are doing latte art and like us, pretty beginners. So it’s really laid back and a great learning experience,” he said.

The purpose of the event, according to Burns, was to give off easy energy and get people learning the basics of latte art and build from there.

“We’re doing a lot of our workshop/practice time for just anybody who’s interested … to come by and learn to make latte art,” Burns said. “There’s a lot of people here that I haven’t seen before which is great because we do this event frequently every month … So the more new people we can bring in and teach, especially in latte art, the better it is.”

The main goal of the event on Tuesday was to teach patrons at all skill levels while making everyone feel like they could laugh with the instructors.

“The No. 1 takeaway for tonight is honestly approachability,” said Aadam Soorma, marketing director of Trace Brewing.

“Chill, come as you are, even if you’ve never done it before. Like basically, you can come and learn and give it a whirl, and no one’s going to ridicule you or laugh at you.”

On top of the low-stakes environment in which the latte art class took place, the event was meant to also be a community builder.

“For me, I actually met my boyfriend at a coffee shop while I was working,” said Sarah Diller, lead barista at Commonplace Coffee.

Diller participated in the latte art event in hopes of finding a similar community of friends among other latte artists and coffee lovers.

The process of learning closely with Burns as an instructor provided the opportunity for plenty of feedback and encouragement for the amateur artists in attendance at the event.

“I liked having people [look] at the latte art I was doing and be able to pinpoint what I’m doing,” said Diller, appreciating the feedback she received to make her art even better.

Coffee opened the door for many people to connect with each other in a new way at Trace Brewing, where coffee is not typically the beverage of choice during the brewery’s nightly open hours.

“Coffee,” Soorma said, “it’s something you can enjoy all day. I think that the thing that I love about coffee the most is the subtle nuance in which these folks pull espresso, make filter drip coffee [or] a pour over.”

The process of turning a simple cup of coffee into something artistic was also described as a special craft by Burns.

“You need a good, clean slate of espresso,” Burns said. “So you need espresso with a good level of cream on it, you need properly foamed milk, properly textured milk…it’s actually surprisingly physics and physical more than anything.”

Coffee is something that connects with anything, Burns said, and shows off the complexity of life in a simple cup from the smell, the color or taste. There are around 129 species of coffee, according to the website Counter Culture Coffee.

“I think a good example is if you go to a coffee shop and you can try two or three different single origin coffees from different countries and then you taste them side-by-side,” Soorma said. “You can actually pull out different flavors where the art meets the science meets the country of origin. And I think that’s really cool.”

For more information about the upcoming Pittsburgh Coffee Week competitions and events check out With their newfound latte art skills, the participants at Trace Brewery’s class look forward to appreciating the events throughout coffee week even more.

For their ninth annual Pittsburgh Coffee Week, Downtown cafes will serve up special events and drink specials from Oct. 15 to 21.

“With a focus on collaboration between communities and shops,” the coffee week website said, “these events will serve to expand your horizons, whether you’re a seasoned industry pro or just getting your feet wet.”