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Lee Kang Bin is what some might call a visionary. The Seoul-based barista uses his artistic talents to create caffeinated beverages that take latte art to the next level, putting South Korea’s coffee scene in the international spotlight.
South Koreans are some of the biggest coffee drinkers in the world. For perspective, sip on this. With more than 17,000 cafes in a city of over 10 million people (that’s 17 coffee shops per 10,000 people), Seoul has more cafes per capita than Seattle – the home of Starbucks – which has 15 per 10,000, or San Francisco, at 14.7.
To stand out in a saturated industry, Korean coffee shops go to great lengths to differentiate themselves from the competition. Some use quirky themes like Harry Potter and Hello Kitty, while others fill their spaces with furry friends like raccoons and meerkats.
Seoul’s Café C.Through, however, lures in caffeine nuts with its “Creamart,” decorative cold-brew coffee beverages developed by the café’s owner, Lee Kang Bin. Lee’s coffee art designs feature a number of themes ranging from Disney films to political messages to replicas of impressionist paintings.
“I really wanted to develop a coffee that has both an amazing flavor and a delicate aesthetic, so I created ‘Creamart,’” said Lee in an interview with Culture Trip. “It’s a cold-brew coffee that keeps its great taste, even as time goes by.”
The 26-year-old coffee enthusiast admits that he was never formally trained in art or drawing. His ability, he says, was instead developed through his experience as a barista over the span of the past 10 years.
Although his rendition of Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” remains the most popular choice of latte art, Lee is constantly developing new designs inspired by movies, sports, events and even everyday life. Check out some of them below.