Art or conservation?

The advent of coffee art is taking a humble beverage further away from its simple roots

Coffee shops are not just meant for drinking coffee but for meeting people and socialising. Andrew Parsons / The National
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Once the only question when ordering coffee was whether you wanted sugar with it. Such simpler times are a far cry from the present day, where there is not only a bewildering array of blends and combinations on offer but some – pumpkin spice soy frappuccino, anyone? – barely seem to qualify as coffee at all.

Broadening this genre yet further is the trend towards coffee art, where the crema is stirred, coloured and otherwise tweaked to create the most ephemeral of artforms, destined to last mere minutes before being consumed. One can only wonder what new trend will change this sector over the next few years.

Is it possible this might reach full circle, where instead of being about expressing lifestyle choices or even ingesting caffeine, coffee is used as a lubricant for conversation – as it once was in the coffee houses of Baghdad or around the Bedouin fires of Arabia? With the profusion of Wi-Fi and smartphones in modern cafes, we probably shouldn’t hold our breaths waiting for it.