Why you should care
Because now you can fake it like the best of them.
Harry Potter eyeballs you through frothed milk. Jesus’ body reappears on four cups of coffee. E.T. looks quizzical in foam. These are latte art creations by Michael Breach, arguably the world’s most famous latte artist. He uses his barista skills to create latte art, and has encouraged fellow artistes to get creative with coffee. Illinois barista-artist Cortney Kern designs using multiple methods: the free pour technique — where the steamed milk creates a shape as you pour it — and free hand, where tools are used to create a design. Kern’s creations include a toothy Jaws, a smiling piglet and Grumpy Cat.
But not everyone has the skill or the patience to produce free pour or free hand foam art. Takara Tomy Arts (T-ARTS) in Japan has created the Deco Latte, a special “gelatinous sheet which is derived collagen” (note: not vegetarian-friendly) that can be placed right onto coffee. Each sheet features a design drawn in cocoa powder that will last for around three minutes before melting into the beverage.
The Deco Latte was trialed at Tokyo’s Tower Records store, and all 720 Snoopy-themed packs sold out.
Latte art recently became popular in Japan, “however you have to go to the coffee shop to enjoy it,” Nana Maeda from T-ARTS Company, Ltd. International Sales Dept. wrote via email. The goal was to allow people to create their own latte art at home. The designs have a similar cute factor to those of Breach and Kern: the Rilakkuma bear, adorable kawaii girls and messages of love and celebration.
Coffee experts don’t see the point. “A pretty pattern does not mean that the coffee will be any good,” says Coffee Obsession author Anette Moldvaer. Great espresso and perfect milk are prerequisites for good latte art; this means knowing your materials plus lots of practice, she says. Others agree: It’s all about the coffee. “[The art] is a garnish — like a cocktail umbrella,” says Coffee Nerd author Ruth Brown. She thinks people would stop frequenting a cafe if the coffee stinks but not because the latte art isn’t creative. Kevin Sinnott, a coffee author and host of CoffeeCon, which features latte art demonstrations, also thinks using a mold takes away from the art form. “A great latte artist uses the flow as part of the design,” he says.
For those who want to have pretty pictures on their java and fancy the thought of DIY, the Deco Latte strips will cost around $4.20 for a 10-pack. They’ve just gone on sale — but only in Japan for now. But there’s already growing interest. T-Arts trialed the Deco Latte at Tokyo’s Tower Records store, and all 720 Snoopy-themed packs sold out.
Barista-artist Kern isn’t really a fan of the strips. “That’s kind of shortcutting it in my opinion,” he shared. “But it is kinda fun.”