May 23, 2023

The Mona Latte Smile

By The Coffee Research Department
The Mona Latte Smile

Coffee has shaped our modern world. In ways both profound and lasting, the world’s most popular beverage has left a coffee-colored mark on everything from literature, philosophy, politics, and yes, even the arts. 

Depictions of coffee and coffee culture have made their way onto the canvas of some of the most famous Western artists, such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Matisse. 

Today, artists are taking coffee obsession to the next level by using the very materials of coffee, from bean to water, as the materials for their art. 

Here are six examples of when artists turned coffee itself -- cups, beans, and brew -- itself a work of art.

The Da Vinci of Baristas

Talented baristas can steam, pour, and etch their lattes into jaw-dropping works of art, and countless Instagram posts are dedicated to these temporary tableaus.

Da Vinci
Da Vinci, by Michael Breach

Michael Breach is known for “painting” faces onto the foam of the lattes he serves. He even claims that “coffee is [his] medium,” because these temporary portraits are fleetingly framed by the coffee cup. Check out this  “Da Vinci of Baristas,” through his social media feed: Baristart

Ok, but did the REAL Da Vinci Drink Coffee?

Probably not. Coffee wasn’t regularly consumed in Italy until after the Pope blessed it in 1600, in what became known as the baptism of coffee. But that got us thinking. Has anyone ever brought the Mona Lisa and coffee together in frothy caffeinated bliss? 

Yes! And it looks delicious!


Mona Lisa in foam by Mattsun

Here are some other ways artists have modeled coffee after the Mona Lisa.

The Mona Lisa and the Sidewalk Cafe

At the Sydney Aroma Festival, it took a team of 8 artists and over 3 hours to recreate the Mona Lisa out of coffee poured into paper cups. To do so, they used over 3,000 cups of coffee and 564 pints of milk.



Those individual cups below that make up the “pixels” of her face? They span every conceivable milk-to-coffee ratio, from black coffee, to macchiato, to pure white lattes. 

It’s All About the Beans

Here, the artist Jatuporn Khuansuwan composed the Mona Lisa entirely from coffee beans.

Just don’t tip the table.


Art & Photograph by Jatuporn Khuansuwan

Girl, Don’t Cry Over Spilt Latte!

Knocking over coffee isn’t a total disaster. For some, it’s an opportunity! Consider how this artist turned lemons-to-lemonade by using the brew as her paint. 

The artist, Maria A. Aristidou, relied upon nothing more than Greek coffee, espresso and ingenuity.  Watch her create the work here.

The So-Called Mona Latte

Another artist, Karen Erland, worked with coffee and titled her portrait the Mona Latte.

She is, of course, also holding an example of latte art in her hand.

Some more interesting facts about the OG Mona Lisa:

She’s considered a “destination painting.”

Approximately 8 million people view the Mona Lisa each year. Many of the Louvre’s visitors purchase a ticket to the museum specifically to see the painting. With such crowds, they might only catch a brief glimpse of her image, though. 

She’s been stolen. 

It’s part of her fame. In 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen by Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian immigrant living in Paris. The portrait was eventually recovered, but the heist only made Da Vinci’s masterpiece more famous - and it launched even more speculation about that mysterious smile. In fact, it was this event that elevated the work to the status of “art icon.”

She’s been copied. A lot. 

Mona Lisa’s image is now considered an object of mass reproduction and some speculate her smile has been reproduced or parodied in some fashion or another in over 300 paintings and 2,000 ads. As we’ve shown here, her likeness has also been recreated using coffee, but also it has been made using Rubik’s Cubes, train tickets, rice crackers, and computer chips (source: wikipedia).

She’s totally modern.

Today we are saturated in images and selfies, but Mona Lisa has not lost her appeal. In some of the newest iterations of Da Vinci’s model, Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile still captivates us, even while re-imaged and styled for the modern age. 


Whatever the allure is, she sure has it. Should it come as a surprise that this “it” girl is pictured with coffee? 


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