When you think of latte art, what do you imagine? You’re likely thinking rosettas, tulips, or maybe even a swan. This is the standard for most local coffee shops and competitions. This is not to say you won’t find other art styles in your latte—baristas have been pushing the limits of what’s possible with foamed milk year after year. One cafe in particular has and is producing 3D latte art that is almost too beautiful to drink. And their manager, Runa Kato, is at the forefront of 3D latte art innovation.
Thanks to the Twitter algorithm picking up on the amount of anime and coffee pages I follow, I came across a tweet of Tom Nook (an Animal Crossing character) bathing in a cup of money from Runa Kato’s Twitter. Curiosity took over and led to scrolling through beautifully curated latte art of popular anime characters from shows like Demon Slayer and well-known game characters like Kirby. I was hooked from the start.
Nestled in the side streets of Tokyo’s famed fashion district, Harajuku, Reissue is pouring up incredible 2D and 3D latte art. The staff at Reissue are trained in this unique art form and customers can make special requests. From portraits to Among Us memes, your imagination is the limit. With a steady hand and keen eye, Kato is able to recreate characters in latte form with a special latte art pen—a thin metal tool, a couple of spoons, and often chocolate sauce to create lines and fine details. Her work speaks for itself, but when you take notice of her attention to detail in linework, shading, and the use of space beyond the canvas to add lengthier details, you realize just how skilled and passionate Kato is.
From anime and game characters to UNESCO World Heritage Sites and NFL teams, Kato’s work easily stands out thanks to her impeccable craftsmanship and years of experimentation and practice. Her latest creation is latte art you can interact with, where you can poke, wiggle, and manipulate the 3D characters to move without them breaking down right away.
We talked with Runa about her coffee journey, the process of making inspired 3D latte art, and her hopes for the future of the craft.
This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity. Translation by Hengtee Lim.
How long have you worked in the coffee industry?
Including when I was working part-time, about 11 years.
Tell us a little about your latte art journey. How did you start?
I currently work as the manager of Reissue, the first cafe to promote 3D latte art. I started making latte art in 2018, and I’ve made more than 100,000 cups since. In 2019, I made the world’s first 3D matcha latte art, and have since been developing an idea that turns people’s expectations of latte art upside down: latte art you can touch.
Since then, I’ve featured in a variety of media due to my creative approach and subtle touches to my work. I made latte art for the Super Bowl, I contributed to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ torch relay, and I help support global events through latte art.
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Wow, that’s amazing! What motivated you to create unique latte art?
There’s lots of depressing news out there, so I wanted people who saw my social updates to be able to forget about it all, even if just for an instant.
What do you love about creating latte art?
I like that I can develop it freely.
What is the process of creating 2D and 3D art? How long does it take to create?
It depends on what I’m making, but 2D takes about five minutes, and 3D takes about seven.
What inspires you when creating a new piece of latte art?
I make a lot of latte art about the things I like. That’s where it usually starts, but sometimes I get inspired by current news and social media.
A lot of your art is of anime and game characters, do you have any characters you hope to make in the future?
I’ve made almost all of them already, so I want to make things that will push latte art further. It’s like a battle with my inspiration.
— 加藤瑠菜@Latteart☕.◦*.＊。🇯🇵 (@RunaPocket) May 18, 2022
You’ve created latte art for the Superbowl and TOKYO 2020 are there any other brands you’d like to create latte art for?
Not really. I make what I feel like making.
If you had to choose, which latte art was your favorite to create?
Recently, I like to create latte art you can touch. Until now, latte art has been something you take photos of, but can’t touch. I wanted to make something cute that stayed cute when you touched it, took photos of it, and when you lifted it. So I invented it! (lol) Other than that, when I started out I would open holes in the middle of the foam and make 3D matcha latte art. I just like building and developing the craft.
Can you beat drowsiness…?😴 pic.twitter.com/M4Sz3uUwOV
— 加藤瑠菜@Latteart☕.◦*.＊。🇯🇵 (@RunaPocket) May 23, 2022
Do you have anything exciting coming up that you can share?
As one of the most well-known latte artists in Japan, my work got me invited to attend a Japanese festival in Switzerland in 2022.
What would you like to see for latte art in the future?
I don’t think I’m in a position to make any bold claims, but I’d like to see more people know about latte art and try it out. I’d like to see it grow.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I’d like to organize a 3D latte art contest in the near future.
We’d love to see that, too! Keep an eye on Runa Kato’s work. Thank you so much Kato-san! We can’t wait to see what you make next.
Follow Runa Kato on Twitter and Instagram.
Brianna Fox-Priest is a freelance journalist in Oklahoma City covering coffee, video games, and Japanese pop culture. Read more Brianna Fox-Priest on Sprudge.
All photos courtesy of Runa Kato