Citizens of Melbourne let it be known, something sinister is afoot. A mystery that has been laid carefully, right under our noses. A Frankenstein pieced together from specialty coffee culture and laneway street art. A phantom prowling the city under the cover of darkness.
By day they walk among us, by night their alter-ego emerges and they become… The Melbourne Street Latte Artist! Their aims are unknown. Their mission, a mystery. But someone is pouring elaborate latte art graffiti art on the streets of Melbourne. This story serves to document the phenomenon, and to call them from the darkness. Reveal yourself, latte artist!
Exhibit A: Collingwood
It’s been two years since my first sighting. I was walking to ACOFFEE in Collingwood when I came across the image on the pavement. While the ordinary observer may have dismissed this as just another street tag, I recognized it immediately as latte art. Though rather than being presented in a coffee cup, it had been “poured” onto the sidewalk in paint.
While strange, a lone swan on the sidewalk was by no means out of the ordinary on the eclectic streets of Melbourne.
Exhibit B: Melbourne CBD
Early in 2019, I found myself ordering a takeaway coffee from Little Rogue in Melbourne’s CBD. While waiting outside, my eyes drifted lazily across the street art decorating the laneway when suddenly my attention was drawn to the floor. Staring right back at me was another swan.
My curiosity was piqued. Who was behind this?
Exhibits C & D: Princes Hill & North Melbourne
Later that year I spent time living between Princes Hill and North Melbourne, but no matter what I did the pavement pourer was always one step ahead of me. In Princes Hill, outlined on the same stretch of street in thick, pink paint were two of the smallest swans I had seen yet. Events were gaining momentum and I knew it would only be a matter of time before The Melbourne Street Latte Artist struck again.
Weeks later my fears were confirmed. In North Melbourne, a third, larger swan in matching pink revealed itself, though I was perplexed. These neighborhoods didn’t fit the perp’s bio. In all three cases there were no obvious coffee venues nearby. Why did these swans exist in such remote locations?
Exhibit E: Brunswick
Earlier this year at the back of a new parking lot in Brunswick, I stumbled across this. Streets behind the recently opened ONA Coffee Melbourne, emblazoned in stark contrast against dark asphalt was another swan, though unlike the others the paint used here still looked fresh. I rushed into a nearby business and confirmed that construction on this section of the carpark had been completed in December 2019.
The swan was poured this year. The evidence was unavoidable.
That means the Melbourne Street Latte Artist is still out there. Every time I leave the house my eyes scan the streets searching for their latest clue. I order coffee and discreetly watch the hands of each barista, hoping they will give something away. I ask myself, do they do it to mock us? Is this the grieving swan song of someone leaving the coffee industry? Are they all part of an elaborate, guerrilla marketing campaign? Or is someone simply pouring swans for the hell of it?
I have put together a map with the locations of each swan here. If you have any information about the Sidewalk Swans or The Melbourne Street Latte Artist, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kurtis Tupangaia is a freelance journalist and coffee professional based in Melbourne. This is Kurtis Tupangaia's first feature for Sprudge.