Think your coffee looks cute with a leaf on top? You ain’t seen nothing yet. Sure, any decent barista these days can top your latte with a love heart, but how many can create actual, intricate art in the foam that tops your hot drink? In recent years, coffee consumption across the globe has massively increased. As well as smelling good and keeping us going, everyone’s favourite caffeinated drink has brought us an entire new art form: latte art. Latte art is so competitive that it has become an international sport, with baristas from all over the world taking part in the annual Latte Art Championships. We’ve picked out some of the most stunning examples of latte art from around the world. Be prepared to be amazed (and quite possibly disappointed, next time you pop to your local cafe for a very flat flat white).
A Splash of Colour
Las Vegas barista Mason Salisbury really ups the game of the traditional latte leaf by carefully introducing a myriad of vibrant colours in the form of completely-edible vegetable dyes. The result is psychedelic coffee-toppers in eye-poppingly bright colours.
The most popular latte art design is still the leaf, but some clever coffee-makers can go a step further than that and create frothy flowers on top of coffee. Renowned South Korean latte artist Lee Kang-Bin takes things a step further by introducing food dyes to create bountiful botanical displays. In Cafe Carol Mel, Singapore, it’s not just lattes that get the floral treatment, but taro and matcha teas. Both drinks already boast pastel hues that lend themselves well to the delicate cherry blossom designs.
Latte artists can draw leaves and flowers in foam, so while we’re on the subject of nature, how about animals? Of course they can! Top latte artists are capable of creating all manner of creatures, with incredibly intricate detail, on top of hot drinks.
Just when it looked as though latte art couldn’t get any more spectacular, artists happened upon the idea of creating 3-dimensional latte art – latte art sculptures, if you like. One of the most talented latte sculptors is Japanese barista Kazuki Yamamoto, whose designs are nothing short of mind blowing. Using the fluffy foam to build volume, Yamamoto can make it look like an adorable seal is bathing in your drink, or Snoopy is taking a nap atop your cup. It’s not just cute and cuddly animals that make it into latte art, though: Taiwanese barista Chang Kuei Fang of my Cofi cafe can even make it look as though there’s a cockroach scuttling across the top of your coffee, which is impressive, if not very appetising.
There’s more! Chang Keui Fang (the lady who created the cappuccino cockroach) specialises in using latte foam and chocolate to make breathtakingly-accurate portraits of people’s pets. At My Cofi cafe, customers can order custom-made coffee featuring 3D images of their furry or feathered friends.
Portraits of People
If baristas can create such uncanny animals in latte form, surely they can do the same with humans? Yes they can, especially Michael Breach. This New York barista painstakingly carves lines and shading into coffee tops using a toothpick, creating stunning portraits not just of movie stars and celebrities, but the drinkers of the coffee. So much more impressive than having your name scrawled on the side of your cup with a Sharpie.
It’s clear from looking at these spectacular examples that latte art truly is a new art form. Some baristas are so skilled at it that they have recreated famous paintings from the likes of Munch, Dali and Van Gogh in coffee froth. Lee Kang-Bin even paints his in glorious technicolour. Just don’t expect to see any of them framed and in a gallery.
As well as masterpieces from famous painters, Lee Kang-Bin uses food dye to recreate a more modern art form: stills from animated films. He picks out the most beloved characters from Disney films and carefully paints them atop lattes that are way to sweet to sip.
Can vending machines make latte art?
All of this is pretty awesome, but it was made by very talented human beings. There’s no way a vending machine could top its coffees with clever art. Is there? Actually, there is. In Japan, the Yojiya Cafe Selection machine produces on-the-go hot drinks complete with an impressive foamy top. OK, it’s the company logo and not massively elaborate, but surely it paves the way for things to come…