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The (Brief) Origins of Latte Art in America

Latte art is known today as the instantly instagrammable trend sweeping through cafes across the United States, including ours. However, that trend actually began decades ago when microfoam was developed.

Latte art, built out of the combination of coffee oil and brewed coffee with milk foam, comes “directly out of the flavor of the espresso,” said U.S. latte art pioneer David Schommer in a 1994 edition of CoffeeTalk Magazine.

Though latte art cropped up in different countries at different times, it was popularized in the United States in the 1980s by Schommer. He developed his latte art in Seattle, and credits Jack Kelly of Seattle’s Uptown Espresso for developing microfoam in the city in 1986. Schommer soon created the heart latte art design, which became a signature of his roastery and coffee shop, Espresso Vivace. Working off of a picture from Italy’s Cafe Mateki, he soon perfected the rosette (aka “rosetta”) pattern.

Deconstructing the image, Schommer said “I knew when I saw it the petals must be formed by each swipe of the pitcher during shaking. Overcome with the beauty of these patterns, I became obsessed with getting them under control.”

We are grateful for the creativity of latte artists and coffee connoisseurs throughout the world and share our love for latte art at our four San Diego cafes. Have you gotten the chance to enjoy a cup (or two) of WestBean coffee with a beautiful latte art design? Stop by and we’ll pour you a cup!