The world of coffee bars changed forever the day the first bored, over-caffeinated and over qualified barista doodled a foam swirl on top of a double cappuccino.
Just like cupcakes, breakfast bowls or bento boxes, it turns out espresso drinks become much improved with a little decoration. Or a lot of it.
Here’s some of the best we’ve seen, from around the globe.
1. Ferocious Lion & Adorable Bear
If there were a world championship of latte art, South Korea would be a top contender. Just check out what their baristas spent an average Sunday doodling – an adorable Pokemon-esque bear getting attacked by a fearsome lion.
Elsewhere in Korea, this elegant peacock is gliding along in a peaceful cappuccino lake, oblivious to the fact that someone’s about to dunk a cookie in it.
3. Moon & Sun Child
Goodnight world, goodnight moon. Goodnight, adorable Sun child—or are you supposed to be the Earth? We’ll leave that call to you. Korean latte art is hard to interpret. But also, delicious.
“WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?! Oh, hey–here they are!" As imagined by edgy barista Ben McSherry, latte-foam dragons have a cute personality and mohawk hairstyling. (Coincidence: So does he.)
5. Man Holding Flower
Instagram little-known Chaipranom is like the up-and-coming DaVinci of latte art. The expressions on his humans and other creatures manage to tell a story in delicate foam. Many of them are sinister, but this flower-sniffing guy seems like someone you’d want to hang with, and you know, grab a coffee.
6. Pet Trio
This adorable cat and dog trio are the best of inter-species imaginary friends. (Note: Chaipranom also does amazing monkeys, horses, fishes and even koalas, so if you like the little you’ve seen, spend some time on his page.)
Himalayan Java is on every Toronto Insta-foodie’s radar because their latte art is worthy of a gallery exhibit. They do Peanuts and Disney characters, Hello Kitty and Pokemon—the full spectrum of cartoon cuteness, plus all holiday themes.
Elephants are a very popular subject for latte artistry—and can we say, it’s clearly not easy to represent such an enormous animal in a tiny cup. We’ve seen a lot of fails. But here’s one of the better attempts. It has keen eyes and a fancy headdress, worthy of being the Hindu God of wisdom, Ganesha.
9. Cool Mod Couple
The great thing about this foam-artsy couple is that they look exactly like the patrons of the café do IRL. They’ve been arguing because he hates the band and wants to go home, but she’s like, “I’m having a GREAT hair day, so don’t even think about it.”
10. Bear Family
In this series, Colicoffee (who is brilliant at doing cute latte animals) creates an entire bear family in varying size mugs—just like Russian nesting dolls, except you can consume them. (Maybe not all at once, though.)
This Swiss owl has a lot of anxiety. We’re thinking he’s the barista’s spirit animal. It’s probably stressful, serving lattes to bankers in the capital of clocks.
We’ve seen a lot of blob-like foam “snowmen” floating around the Instagram lately, so props to Himalayan Java for creating Frozen’s very own Olaf. As adorable as this is, whoever drinks him will have to “Let It Go.” (I’ll be here all night).
So…who’s excited about the new Star Wars movie? Apparently this latte artist in the Pacific Northwest — she’s been practicing stormtroopers since May the 4th. May the force be with you, Rivermaidencoffee.
If you like your drinks not to have a face, here’s an intricate and superb example of flower-inspired latte art. We like that the artist went in a different direction than tulips, which shoot up like weeds in the coffee-art world.
Here is a charming and swirly example of a latte art Rorschach test, as executed by LA’s favorite boutique coffee roastery. When you look at this cup, do you see a wave? Dueling feathers? A dog with a crazy hairdo? It’s all in your mind—but don’t overanalyze, or it’ll go all room-temperature and gross. No matter how beautiful it is, coffee is ultimately for consumption.