Elaina Bolles wasn’t sure what kind of latte art she was going to get when she entered Dunkin’ Donuts in Niagara Falls this afternoon, but settled on one of world-renowned latte artist Michael Breach’s specialties: faces.
“I’m so nervous,” Bolles said as Breach started crafting her face into foam with a bamboo skewer. “It’s like when they do a caricature and they make you look so bad and then you cry.”
It turns out latte art is more forgiving than exaggerated caricatures.
“He’s making me look better than I really am and honestly, I appreciate that,” Bolles joked.
Breach started out with a white circle, or as he called it, a "moon," then slowly created her eyes, nose, mouth and hair. The finished product really did look like her. Several Dunkin’ patrons took photos, each wondering how Breach would make them, or their dog, look.
Breach is only in Buffalo for about eight hours, before heading home to Brooklyn, ending a long stretch of traveling for events.
“I’ve been all over the country for about eight hours at a time,” Breach said.
There aren't a lot of opportunities to get your face, or your dog's face, emblazoned on a latte. There just aren't a lot of people who can do it. Breach has been touring Dunkin' Donuts all over the country, giving anyone who stops by a free latte with whatever they want sketched into it.
What else would a true Buffalonian request? Still an hour left with Michael - don’t forget to stop by! pic.twitter.com/PIDXMInhls
— Dunkin' Buffalo (@DunkinBuffalo) December 21, 2018
His artist's toolbox includes a bamboo skewer and some food coloring. You can't just order a latte and hand it to him, though. He uses foam with a special consistency. But you can drink it.
Before social media, you might have been lucky to see some floral latte designs when your local barista got a little fancy with the coffee stirrers. But intricate photogenic latte art — designs, logos, characters, engraved in a temporary foam on a latte — became virally popular on sites such as Tumblr and Instagram. Breach’s Instagram account, @baristart, was one of the first.
He had 20,000 Instagram followers in the very beginning, before many celebrities had that many. Now, around 100,000 people follow his latte masterpieces. He creates pop culture icons like David Bowie, nature landscapes, Disney Characters and pretty much everything in between.
His clients have included Nestle, South by Southwest and New York Fashion Week. He’s done portraits for Joe Jonas, Chrissy Teigen, Tim Gunn and the Prince of Kuwait. He’s been on The Food Network, “The Today Show” and “The Rachael Ray Show.”
It's pretty impressive for someone who started out as a barista in 2011, and who was sleeping on his friend’s couch. But he believed in his art. And eventually, he was being flown to Australia and making enough money to quit his job. Since then, he's been all over the world for events.
“I was able to quit my job and just be Michael, not you know, just some random latte artist guy.”
At Dunkin' Donuts, a small but steady stream of people queued, just enough for Breach to get through all of them without any time to spare.He made witty banter while cooly crafting each latte. (“I have the least dangerous job ever, ” he joked.)
Colleen Yappueying had her dog, Agnes, "immortalized" in latte form. “She has a face you can’t forget," Yappueying said.
Gregory Austin watched Breach make art of his cat, Zelda, and as he snapped photos of the drink, he said Breach "killed it."
Frankie Brumsted wanted to surprise her sister, who was having a rough day. Brumsted held up a photo of her nephew, Maverick, on her phone. The cherub-faced 1 1/2-year-old was portrayed on the latte, which she planned to surprise her sister with.
Even when Breach begins to discuss some of the downsides associated with his unique job — long travel stretches, customers who expect him to stay longer than originally agreed upon — he stops himself. “Boohoo, woe is me, I have to make coffee art all day," Breach said.
When he finished designing Bolles' face into a latte, he wanted a photo himself, and he wanted to have fun with it. He opened up Snapchat and used a puppy filter on the latte, then moved the video to Bolles' puppy-filtered face.
“It’s like Facetune. Should I Facetune my latte when I post it?” Bolles jokingly asked.
“I’ve Facetuned lattes before," Breach said. And Facebook has even mistaken his latte faces for people. Maybe until they start to melt.