Angie Chun entered the US Latte Art Championship back in January at the behest of her younger brother, William. The siblings work together, along with their older sister Jennifer, at their family's two Orange County coffee shops, Coffee Code. Seeing as how the championships were being held in Long Beach—about 20 minutes from home—and that her brother also would be there competing, she decided to give it a go. “Okay, why not?”
Chun had roughly a month and a half to practice between her full-time shifts at Coffee Code. She figured at best she could maybe place third, and at the very least she could have a lot of fun and compete alongside her brother.
Then she won. William, her brother, placed third, and Angie Chun, with just six weeks of practice and an “Okay, why not?” attitude, is the 2015 US Latte Art Champion. She'll move on to represent the United States at the World Latte Art Championships in Sweden in June. It has been, as you might imagine, a whirlwind.
Chun was born in South Korea; she and her family moved to Garden Grove, Calif., when she was 16. She was an art major in college, and though she was especially interested in interior design, she became an optician. Not that she didn’t find ways to use her design skills: when her family opened Coffee Code in Buena Park, Calif., in October 2010, Chun helped design the space. William helmed the shop, and Angie and Jennifer helped him out part-time.
Initially, Angie found little romance in the coffee-making part of the business. She didn't particularly enjoy pulling shots and steaming milk, and so instead handled the register. “Then one day I followed my sister to a Coffee Fest,” she said, and was wowed by, well, everything: the latte art being thrown down, the friends she made, the barista community she found. Inspired, she promptly quit her day job and joined the family business full time; she was determined then, as she still is now, to learn as much as she could about coffee. She studied up and earned her Q-Grader license and, of course, worked on her pouring skills alongside her siblings. Over the last few years, the trio have entered various competitions, and Jennifer even won a Coffee Fest latte art competition in 2013.
Unsurprisingly, word has gotten out about the formidable family talent at Coffee Code. Angie says she makes 100 to 200 drinks a day, and customers come in just to see the art; indeed it’s nearly impossible to be at Coffee Code and not see someone Instagramming their pretty latte. “I'm so happy that I have one small talent that can make people happy,” Chun says. It's worth mentioning that, beautiful pours aside, art doesn't trump substance: the coffee you'll get at Coffee Code is some of the best in Orange County, roasted by Klatch Coffee.
That the shop has such a high volume worked in Chun's favor as she prepared for the US Latte Art Championship, as her bar time provided a valuable opportunity to practice her free pour. For the Art Bar segment, where competitors create and etch their own unique designs, she experimented with a few ideas, solicited customer feedback, and ultimately settled on creating a peacock. This design was then practiced and practiced after the shop closed, well past midnight, in the days leading up to the competition.
Six months ago, the Chuns opened a second location of Coffee Code in Fullerton, about 15 minutes away from their first shop. Angie also designed the new cafe, which she and her brother call their ideal espresso bar: it's a bright, decidedly modern spot with light gray and white tones throughout. There's a La Marzocco Linea Classic on the counter, plus a pour-over bar with V60s for coffee and Clever drippers for tea. On the menu: fun things like Eiskaffe (ice cream and espresso), cortados and, of course, lattes.
William can be found at the newest Coffee Code location, while Angie spends most of her days in Buena Park, making drinks behind the bar. And, of course, preparing for the World Championships.
I asked if she could share a pro tip for this article on how to create beautiful latte art. Her response also makes for pretty good life advice:
“Every single shot, every single time you steam,” she says, “whatever you do, you have to do it with all of your soul.”
Latte art photos courtesy of Coffee Code.