I tweeted a picture of my coffee yesterday:
And @gappy3000 asked “isn’t that favoring presentation over content (literally)?”
It turns out that the answer is essentially no. To make latte art you do not need to compromise at all on the quality of the coffee. In fact the parameters that facilitate a good design are also the ones that make the best cup of coffee. You need rich crema for the canvas. And rich crema is the hallmark of a well-pulled espresso. You need milk that is steamed enough to be ever-so-slightly foamy but not “frothy”. If you cannot pour the milk smoothly into the cup without spooning, the coffee will not taste good.
To make that design the milk must pour heavily into coffee and then the foamy part floats back to the surface behind the “wake” of the stream as you paint. In order for milk to be of that consistency it must not be steamed too long or hot. Excessively steamed milk tastes burnt and is one of the most common defects of commercial latte/cappucino.
So, on the contrary, a beautiful design on your coffee is almost always a signal that the coffee is going to be good. You should insist on latte art.