Japan Coffee Shop Serves Joy in Form of 3D Latte Art

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Three-dimensional latte art created by Kohei Matsuno is seen at Hatcoffee in Taito Ward, Tokyo.

Two-dimensional latte art has become commonplace at coffee shops and on Instagram. However, 3D latte art, with its cute little animals or exciting scenery, is still an interesting experience for many coffee fans.

Three-dimensional latte art, which is made by topping milk foam onto a cup of coffee or tea, has gained popularity as it makes it appear as if small bubbly creatures have popped out of the cup.

Kohei Matsuno, a 33-year-old latte artist, creates 3D latte art for his customers if they request it with their latte or milk tea at Hatcoffee, his coffee shop in Taito Ward, Tokyo. He said many customers have asked for images of dog, cats or their favorite singer.

Two-dimensional latte art is made by pouring steamed milk onto the surface of an espresso to draw various designs. However, 3D latte art requires milk foam.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Two-dimensional latte art and 3D latte art.

“The advantage of 3D latte art is that it allows a lot of freedom of expression when creating detailed images of animals, characters or other figures,” Matsuno said.

In recent years, coffee shops have served more drinks with 3D latte art, and these images have spread on social media, prompting a lot of positive feedback.

I showed Matsuno a photo of Xiang Xiang, the giant panda that was returned to China in February, and asked him to re-create the panda’s image as 3D latte art.

Matsuno scooped out milk foam with a large spoon and placed it on the surface of the coffee to create a base. He then piled more foam on top to make it into his desired shape. The final touch was to create the eyes, nose, cheeks and other features using chocolate or strawberry syrup with a latte art pick.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Two spoons are used to form the milk foam into the desired shape.

The result was a lively Xiang Xiang. The fluffy white foam is perfect for creating an image of a panda. The facial expressions and poses of a Shiba Inu and a cat, which he created along with the panda, were also adorable.

“I can draw [latte art] landscapes as well,” Matsuno said.

He then started creating latte art inspired by the “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” series by ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. He drew a small Mt. Fuji surrounded by large waves in the foreground and background, very similar to the original artwork.

The Yomiri Shimbun
Latte art created by Matsuno that was inspired by the “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” series by Katsushika Hokusai

Matsuno’s professional skills are reflected in all his works, making customers feel a little guilty about drinking them.

“Although the latte art disappears after people drink it, I’m happy if it entertains my customers and makes them smile,” he said.

Making latte art at home

Three-dimensional latte art can be easily created at home if you have a milk frother or similar device to make milk foam. According to Tokyo-based Key Coffee Inc., which holds latte art classes for parents and children, the milk should be heated to 40-60 C to create a good foam.

Pour about 100 milliliters of milk into a heatproof container, warm it up and thoroughly aerate it to create the foam. Pour some of it onto the coffee to create a base for the art.

Let the remaining foam sit for about a minute until it is separated to create hard foam at the top. Once a desired shape is created, use a bamboo skewer or something similar to draw a figure of your choice with chocolate sauce.