Have you ever marveled at a beautiful design on top of your café latte, and thought “this is too pretty to drink!“?

It’s no surprise.

Talented baristas can create amazingly artistic expressions that lay atop your coffee drink, only to disappear with the first sip!

Lately, this art form can be found all over the world, including your local coffee shop!

Here we’ll take a look at the history of latte art and some secrets to making your own delicious designs at home.

Some History of Latte Art

steam-frothing-milk-under-pressure-from-steam-wandThis artistic expression first became popular in the 1980s thanks to modern espresso machines that create a key ingredient… microfoam.

What is microfoam? It’s perfectly frothed, velvety smooth milk, composed of millions of uniformly sized, microscopic bubbles.

The creamy and soft texture provides a perfect complement to the intense flavors of a dark espresso shot.

It is also the ideal canvas for some coffee art!


David Schomer of Seattle was the first American credited with developing this delicious art form. Since then, the popularity of latte art has exploded around the globe.

3D Latte Art

3D-Pikachu-Latte-Art-Harajuku-Totoro-thestoryofcoffeeIn Taiwan, coffee lovers flock to Chang Kuei-fang’s cafe, My Cofi, where a cup of her drinkable art can sell for $20!

Using thickly foamed milk to create a 3D effect, she will then dip brushes into ingredients such as espresso, jam, or chocolate, to paint familiar cartoon characters such as Studio Ghibli’s Totoro, or even portraits of your family dog.


How to Make Latte Art

latte-art-poured-by-barista-thestoryofcoffeeDo you have to be an expert barista with 3D foam skills to make your own latte art?

Of course not!

Though it takes some practice, making coffee art at home is easier than you might think. An espresso machine with a steaming wand that can create that perfect microfoam is a must.

A good quality espresso shot with “crema” (the delicious froth that rests on top) is also essential. The microfoam and crema will blend together to create your caffeinated composition!

As it stands, there are two methods of making latte art: Free Pouring and Etching.

To free pour means to carefully pour perfectly frothed milk out of your pitcher and directly atop your freshly pulled espresso.

Barista-preparing-cappuccino-thestoryofcoffeeWhole milk is best for creating this drinkable art-form.

Its high-fat content is needed for creating silky smooth, dense bubbles.

While pouring micro foamed milk, baristas will wiggle the pitcher with their wrist to create designs such as hearts or an intricate rosetta.

More intricate designs like swans, tulips, and lettering require multiple pours and layers of foam stacked on top of each other.

Etching involves taking a rod or etching pin (usually a toothpick) and drawing designs by hand in the foam.

It may not look super pro on your first few tries, but as they say… practice makes perfect!

For those that really want to take their newfound coffee art passion to the next level, the Latte Art Guide is a great resource to explore.


Barista Championships


Some of the world’s best baristas will participate in the annual Latte Art World Championship.

This sudden-death style event features 64 competitors battling it out with free poured latte art that’s judged by criteria such as speed, symmetry, creativity, difficulty, and detail.

Think you have what it takes to make it to the top of the latte art world?

Now that you know how to make your own at home, it’s time to practice!

If sipping is more your style, next time you go for a cafe latte or cappuccino, you’ll understand the skill and technique required to create those beautiful works of art in your cup!

Have you already tried your hand at creating some of this deliciously drinkable art?

We’d love to hear how it turned out in the comments below!


About the Author

Jonnie Coffee

Hi, I'm Jonnie Coffee. As a researcher and artist with a massive passion for all things related to coffee, I started this blog as a "digital homage" to my favorite beverage. Feel free to contact me if you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or even, just for some coffee talk.

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