Laser printers can work on virtually any substrate these days, including stenciling a design onto the foam of your latte. Even though the technology has been around for a few years now, probably it hasn’t become widespread for two reasons. One, the process is relatively slow, which wouldn’t work in a high-volume coffee house. Two, professional baristas who take pride in drawing leaf patterns, swans, smiley faces and swirls on the foam would probably take offense if an automated machine one-upped them by drawing Mocha Lisas and Macchiato Mondrians. The relentless march of technology, however, says that barista artistry may someday be replaced by a robotic arm. The way it works is that precise dots of caramel food coloring are dropped onto the foam dot-by-dot to draw logos, brand taglines, web addresses, holiday greetings, and even very detailed pictures. This doesn’t require unique talent, just a latte art machine. The thought of seeing a marketing pitch imprinted on my latte isn’t very appealing. Still, when placing your latte order, prepare to someday specify caf, decaf; foam, low foam; printed or unprinted.
Hand drawn by Sammy Lin