If you search the internet for latte art you might come across Dritan Alsela, an exceptional barista and latte artist based in Düsseldorf, Germany, who is creating real coffee experiences in a matter of seconds. I've become aware of Dritan's talents through Youtube, where countless videos of his art are going viral. As I was heading to Düsseldorf anyways, I thought I'd check out his coffee place 'Bazzar' on a Sunday afternoon and I got lucky. Although he travels a lot, Dritan was in Düsseldorf that particular day and sat with me for a chat.
The 'Bazzar Caffè' was bustling, it was almost at capacity and friendly staff was roaming the room to satisfy the coffee craving crowd. I sat down with a latte, had a delicious Italian sandwich and enjoyed the dynamic atmosphere. Shortly after, I was joined by Dritan and the assistant manager Mariette and we immersed into coffee talk. Dritan is the owner of the second 'Bazzar Caffè' in a neighbourhood called Flingern. 'Bazzar' is an established brand in Düsseldorf and was founded 1996 in the tradition of an Italian coffee bar, a concept that has been successful until today.
Dritan is in the coffee business since 1998. He discovered latte art by accident, Mariette tells me. While pouring countless coffee drinks over the years he stumbled upon a Rosetta and perfected his technique. His customers were so impressed with the art in their cup, they encouraged him to publish pictures and videos online. This is how Dritan became an internet icon for latte art.
When I asked about current coffee trends and coffee competitions it became evident that he was not interested in the fuzz and the marketing that comes with the third wave movement. More so, what drives him is a massive and sincere passion for coffee: "What is extremely important is how you prepare your coffee, from evenly roasting, to grinding and brewing, every step needs to be flawless to make a good coffee." A clear indication for whether a coffee is well prepared is the aftertaste for Dritan, "...coffee needs to leave a pleasant taste in your mouth".
Like any proper craftsman, Dritan owns an atelier, situated just around the corner from 'Bazzar Caffè', where he experiments with different roasts, meets like-minded coffee people or gives latte art workshops. Although often mistaken for one, this space is not a coffee place. When he suggested to head over there I got really excited and my jaw dropped upon entering this unique space. Every detail is tuned so that it harmonises with the atmosphere Dritan wanted to create. A mix of warm and cool colours, plants and a beautiful drawing of a coffee map done by a friend of Dritan make this space stand out, but what really catches the eye are the custom made espresso machines that decorate the counter. I tell Dritan about my coffee experience in Panama, where I cupped some delicious Geisha from Kotowa coffee. It just so happened that he had a pack of Geisha from Panama, roasted by Toby's Estate coffee roasters, and decided to brew us some. In the studio this humble man is in his element and it was wicked to observe every step of the brewing process carried out by Dritan with dedication and care. Something like five coffee later, I head back to the city center with a caffeine overdose, thinking to myself that one day I will tell my kids about that time that Dritan Alsesa drew me a flower in a cup. Awesome coffee moment!