How a Korean Barista Is Turning Lattes Into Frothy Versions of Art History’s Greatest Masterpieces

Each latte painting costs over $8 and takes 15 minutes to create.

South Korean barista Lee Kang-bin painted this latte to resemble Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night. Courtesy of Lee Kang-bin via Instagram.
South Korean barista Lee Kang-bin painted this latte to resemble Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night. Courtesy of Lee Kang-bin via Instagram.

It’s not every day that a simple cup of coffee becomes a work of art—unless you barista is South Korea’s Lee Kang-bin, who paints famous artworks and other incredible designs into lattes at Cafe C. Through, his coffee shop in Seoul.

“One time I drew The Starry Night and it looked so special as the famous painting placed on top of coffee. After that, lots of people ordered that coffee,” Lee told Reuters. His take on the Vincent van Gogh masterpiece was soon followed by a drinkable version of Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream, and caffeinated Edgar Degas-style ballerinas.

Latte art has admittedly become something of cliché, but this is no simple heart or flower traced in the frothy milk layer atop your cup of joe. Lee’s full-color creations, painted with food coloring-enhanced heavy cream, aren’t even identifiable as a beverage, let alone a cup of coffee. He’s dubbed the new art form “CreamArt.”

Just 26 years old, Lee has become an Instagram sensation with over 165,000 followers, all thanks to his foamy artistic delights. Patient customers eagerly wait in line for his ephemeral handiwork, forking over 10,000 won ($8.71) for each hand-painted cup, which takes 15 minutes to make.

It’s not just icons of art history that get the Lee treatment: he’s also created coffee art featuring The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and beloved Disney characters such as Bambi and Captain Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of the Caribbean films.

“Customers usually ask me to draw their favorite artworks,” said Lee. He’s been making coffee since beginning his mandatory military service at age 17, but his painting prowess is entirely self-taught. The result? The fanciest cup of coffee around doubles as a mini art history lesson.


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