Think latte art’s a tired trend?
You haven’t seen the coffees created by South Korean barista Lee Gang-bin, co-owner of Café C.THROUGH in Seoul.
Using colored icing — a technique he calls “cream art” — Lee transforms regular cups of coffee into incredible works of art.
“Coffee is a fairytale to me,” he tells CNN. “It helps me express exactly what I want and brings my dreams to life. People who specialize in latte art usually only use two colors: black and white. But I wanted to break that color limit.”
His wild creations have earned him nearly 200,000 Instagram followers.
수묵화 🖌🍵 . A price guide for 'Creamart' 'Bear' design is ￦7,500 if want another design, have to reservation but only Three cup of Creamart a day . . ☡☡☡reservation is closed. So I don't get reservations for a while. 'Bear' design Orders can be anytime. . 403-3, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu Monday & Tuesday 14:00 – 10:00 Everyday 12:00 – 10:00 . . . . . #씨스루 #cthrough #카페씨스루 #커피스타그램 #경리단길 #경리단길카페 #경리단길맛집 #녹사평 #녹사평카페 #이태원 #이태원카페 #이태원맛집 #라떼아트 #크리마트 #먹스타그램 #today #instagram #dailyart #coffee #barista #latte #latteart #cafelatte #coffeetime #creamart #espresso #artwork #art
Though his renditions of major artworks are the most popular — including Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night,” Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” and Leonardo DiVinci’s “Mona Lisa” — he does custom work for customers as well.
Requests include everything from storybook characters, such as the Little Prince, to a Vogue Korea magazine cover. But no matter the design, Lee says it’s important that his works of art can actually be consumed.
“It is my rule to not make coffee that people cannot drink,” he says. “I only make cream art on cold coffee. If I make it on hot coffee, the taste changes as it cools off, and I don’t want the taste of the coffee to change.”
The cost of each cream art coffee is 7,500 won ($6.63). Because each cup can take as long as an hour to whip up, he only makes three a day, by reservation only.
The Starry Night✨ . . 라떼아트 1:1 교육 & 원두납품 문의 카톡 : CTHROUGH . "price for "creamart" or "bear" are ₩7500($7.5) each, if you would like another design, you need to make a reservation but are only allow up to three different creamart(s) a day. . 📌📌📌Reservations are closed as of now so I will not take any reservations for a while, but "bear" designs can be ordered any time" . 403-3, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu Monday & Tuesday 14:00 – 10:00 Everyday 12:00 – 10:00 . . . #씨스루 #cthrough #카페씨스루 #커피스타그램 #경리단길 #경리단길카페 #경리단길맛집 #녹사평 #녹사평카페 #이태원 #이태원카페 #이태원맛집 #라떼아트 #크리마트 #먹스타그램 #today #instagram #dailyart #coffee #barista #latte #latteart #cafelatte #coffeetime #creamart #espresso #artwork #art
The teddy bear cream art coffee is the exception, as it can be made in just 40 seconds. C.THROUGH’s menu has other, more traditional items for walk-in customers as well.
“We are baristas making coffee, not just artists drawing pictures on coffee,” he says.
Not just a ‘coffee guy’
Lee has been making coffee for 10 years, branching into latte art seven years ago.
“I started to learn about coffee when I was 18 years old,” he says. “At that time, baristas were not well-known in Korea so I worried a little bit. Soon this worry went away as I became so interested in the job.”
He says it’s helped that he’s always had the support of his parents.
“People around me were critical of me becoming just a ‘coffee guy,'” says Lee. “But I stuck to my decision, just like many Koreans. I wanted to show that I could become successful with coffee.”
Today, his cafe is so busy he says he sleeps only a couple of hours a night. The key to his success, he says, is passion and perseverance.
“I didn’t study drawing but enjoyed it as a hobby,” says Lee. “Then after studying coffee, I realized that not only techniques but also artistry can be put into coffee. This led me to connect coffee and art.”
With the success of the cafe, he says they’re able to export a new side of South Korean culture to the world.
“South Korea has become very famous in recent years due to K-pop,” says Lee. “Yet few people know about Korea’s coffee culture. Some may think coffee is just coffee. But for me it is a bridge that can always connect one person to another.”
Cafe C. THROUGH, 403-3 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea