Roving Reporter: Instagram Latte Art at the ICA


Last Friday, as part of its ICA After 5 series, the Institute of Contemporary Art hosted a workshop on latte art and Instagram, drawing dozens of coffee lovers and photographers to the museum. As the sun set over the bay, two baristas from Black Magic Coffee Co. demonstrated their art form by producing intricate swirls, hearts, and swans on the surface of a latte in a white mug. This Roving Reporter spoke with some of the workshop leaders and participants to find out more.

David M. Simon and Joe R. Smith, baristas

Roving Reporter: Would you consider latte art an art form, and, if so, how do you feel about an art form that’s so temporary?

DS: I think it’s most definitely an art form.

JS: I think it’s important…. If you’re going to spend four dollars on a latte or a cappuccino, it might as well look pretty too.

RR: Do you ever not make a design?

JS: That’s called a whiteout. I competed at a world latte art championships a couple years ago in New York…. I was so nervous because there was a big audience and it was streamed online. I was shaking so hard, I was sloshing the drink out of the cup. And it came out just white.

RR: If you could give a total beginner one tip on making latte art, what would it be?

JS: It really just all comes from practice. Some people get it within the first month…. It took me almost a year before I was able to pour anything. In the end it’s all muscle memory.

Julie A. Ciollo, Instagram instructor

RR: How did you become involved with this event?

JC: A friend of mine put me in touch with the ICA because he knew they were putting this event on and…that I had a big appreciation for photography, coffee, and taking pictures of my coffee.

RR: How did you feel about trying latte art?

JC: It made me feel not so smart. I really appreciate it, so…I want to try to do it myself…. You have to be really good at getting the texture of the milk just so, and having really good hand technique. I think I’m still learning on both of those counts.

Joanna Lee and Sarah Jung, participants

RR: Is coffee a morning necessity?

SH: I’ve become dependent on coffee since I moved to Boston. Boston is, like, coffee signs everywhere.

RR: Do you usually get lattes with pretty designs?

SH: Yeah, and I always feel bad, because I usually have to cover it with a cap, so you only see it for one second.

RR: Do you think a prettier latte tastes better?

SH: It makes me happy. I don’t know if it tastes better…. I don’t know if happier people taste more delicious things. But it definitely makes me smile.

JL: I don’t usually drink coffee, but this makes me want to drink coffee. It’s just fun.

Akshay Verma ’17, inactive Crimson Arts editor and participant

RR: Did you come more for the Instagram or for the latte art?

AV: I would say both equally. I love coffee a lot, and I love Instagram. So it was a match made in heaven.

RR: Is coffee a morning necessity?

AV: Yes, definitely. And an afternoon necessity, too.

RR: Where do you like to get your coffee?

AV: I try to avoid HUDS because it’s very bad coffee, but…at 1 a.m. I will do that. But other than that, on campus I usually go to the Barker Center on my way to class. If I’m desperate, I’ll go to the Science Center or Lamont.

RR: Do you think a prettier latte tastes better?

AV: If anything’s prettier I’ll like it better.

RR: Do you think the temporary nature of latte art makes it more valuable?

AV: I think there’s something beautiful about how it’s temporary. [If] you take a sip or if you stir it too much, it’s gone, and it’s your fault. There’s something poetic about that.

Morgan M. Phelps, Katrina L. Nibbi and Lindsay A. Higgins, Boston University students and participants

RR: What’s your favorite latte flavor at Starbucks?

LH: I’ve tried the pumpkin, but I didn’t like it. I don’t know what all the hype was about.

RR: What excited you more about this workshop: the latte art, or learning how to Instagram it?

MP: I’d say just the latte art…. He makes it look easy, but then you watch people try it and they’re spilling all over the place.

RR: Do you think a prettier latte tastes better?

MP: Yeah, it improves the whole experience.

KN: But if it had a design on it, it might not be as good, because you let it get cold.

LH: Or you don’t want to drink it because it’s so pretty.

RR: Do you think the temporary nature of latte art makes it more rare and valuable?

LH: I think it’s more valuable because only two people can see it. The person who makes it sees it and you see it, and you can enjoy it for a moment, and then it’s gone. It’s more personal.

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