An iPhone dog photo printed on latte foam
Dog on the leash, we were only passing by the little, below the sidewalk café in East Village, with its garden patio and a nifty white bench with a built-in, pop-up center table. A chalkboard sign embedded within in the greenery recommended stopping in to Bali Coffee for macrons and a little caffeine fix. I obliged, not knowing at the time that we were stepping into the future, about to come face to face with technology allowing me to put an image of my dog’s face on the top of my latte foam.
722 11th Ave, San Diego
I guess you could call it living the dream. If your dream includes photorealistic latte art.
Watch latte art being made
Bali Coffee uses coffee extract to print image
Of course, we’ve all seen talented baristas create latte art by skillfully pouring white steamed foam into the brown espresso to draw hearts, swans, or fern-shaped rosettes into the drink’s surface, and you can get that at Bali too. Adding a digital image inverts the process, courtesy of a small appliance that uses coffee extract as ink to “print” brown images onto the white surface of a foam topped latte. Any images you might find or create on your smartphone.
A beach scene printed on a mug of latte, alongside a pastry from Bali Coffee
The device making this magic happen is marketed by a business called Ripples, which bids the technology as a way to turn beverage foam into ad space, and then track its success rate by harvesting social media data when everyone inevitably shares their coffee photos online, as I have done here.
A little below-sidewalk coffee shop in East Village
Happily, Bali Coffee just embraces the thing as a fun way to sell coffee. I downloaded the Ripples app right while standing at the counter, relieved to discover I didn’t have to sign up for anything using an email and password. I only had to choose Bali Coffee from a list of nearby locations and the app sent my image to its printer.
Inside Bali Coffee, which serves food, pastries, and coffee
A few high contrast clip art graphics come with the app, mainly with thick, dark outlines that will theoretically show up better in the foam. Such as a beach and palm trees scene I picked out for a $4 12-ounce mug. Still, a photo of my dog on a to go cup showed just enough of a shade of photorealism to do the job.
Pretty decent coffee too. Bali Coffee uses beans roasted in South Park by Seven Seas Roasting Company.