If you drink cafe coffee with any regularity at all, chances are you’ve been served a latte topped with a decorative swirl in the foam. That special flourish is just the surface of the incredible world of latte art. Baristas around Australia and the world are constantly coming up with new ways to make coffees look as good as it tastes. Coffee is more colourful, detailed, and fun than ever before.
Let’s explore a few of the different kinds of coffee art you can find at your favourite cafe and even learn to create yourself!
Pour Shapes & Swirls
Ever wondered how your barista managed to make the top of your coffee look like a heart? It’s all about the pour. When pouring a latte, the espresso at the bottom mixes with the textured milk to create that creamy tan body. The frothy head at the top of the jug pours in last as it’s lighter. Its thick, foamy texture means that it doesn’t mix easily with the rest of the drink, so it stays white.
By controlling the direction and flow of the milk as the pour graduates from liquid to foam, baristas use these properties to create pretty swirls, flowers and hearts. The particularly skilled can pour more complex designs like swans. If you have your own milk frother, you can teach yourself this pouring method at home.
Watch the 2015 Australian Latte Art Champion Caleb Cha show you how it’s done.
Add Some Colour
The next step in latte art involves using dyes to either colour the textured milk itself to produce rainbow coffees, or to paint pictures on top. Many cafes around Australia offer rainbow lattes, such as Brisbane’s Piggyback Cafe, where you can start your day with a beautiful rainbow swan in your coffee.
Bright rainbow drinks can be made by adding a few drops of food colouring into your jug of frothed milk and giving it a swirl before pouring out a unique multicoloured design. Another method involves separately colouring milks with natural ingredients such as turmeric (yellow), beetroot (pink), and match green tea powder (green) and then swirling them together.
If you’ve got a real eye for detail, coloured syrups can be used to paint a tasty picture on a latte poured with a smooth white foam canvas. One amazing latte artist, who goes by the online handle @nowtoo, creates classic cartoon characters and famous works of art on top of lattes. Watch him recreate The Scream by Edvard Munch:
Sculpt 3D Lattes
One of the biggest new latte art trends is 3D latte art. Extra-foamy milk can be piled on top of your drink and sculpted into all kinds of shapes. This is a particular favourite for kids and grown-up kids alike whose favourite part about a trip to the cafe is eating up that delicious foam. 3D lattes add lots of extra foam in the shapes of cats, bears, and all kinds of characters that are almost too cute to eat.
You can make 3D lattes yourself with a coffee foamer and a little skill, or you can buy a device made specifically for 3D lattes which purportedly makes it easier to create and control foam for sculpting. Paint on features using syrups or drops of dye to finish off your creature in a cup.
One of the biggest names in latte art is Kohei Matsuno, or ‘Mattsun’. He’s world-famous for his latte art, which he posts about on Twitter. To try his work in person, drop by his cafe Reissue next time you’re in Tokyo. A more local latte sculptor making headlines is Kate Jocson, a barista at cafe Sea Change in Sydney’s northern beaches.
Print Your Coffee
Before you think anything we’ve explored so far is excessive for a cup of coffee, meet the Ripple. It’s a machine that prints literally anything onto the top of a coffee. The Wi-Fi-enabled device allows you to upload any design or even photo to print onto coffee. Unsurprisingly, it’s a very expensive and niche device, so you’re pretty lucky if your local cafe gets one.
Check out the promo video to see what could well be the future of latte art.