Foam art is a lovely last touch to your latte -- that is, before you destroy it with a big slurp. But is it worth paying more for such a fleeting craft?
Apparently the answer is yes, according to a new study published in the Journal of Sensory Studies. Researchers found that people expect to pay -- and were willing to pay -- more for a latte or milk-based coffee drink when it sported foam art, even though there was no discernible difference in taste compared to a boring art-less latte. Beyond that, though, the shape and symbolism of the foamy art further affected perception of the latte's taste, quality, and cost.
"If coffee producers want to manipulate people's expectations of their products, adding a star-like shape to a cappuccino will likely increase expected bitterness, likability and quality," the researchers concluded, "although rounded and angular shapes influence the perception of cost and quality."
In other words, there's now scientific proof that coffee shops can charge more for lattes and get away with it. In fact, people are willing to shell out "between 11–13% more for coffee with latté art than for those without it," according to the study. So basically, people are willing pay more for pretty things. Nothing new there.
Obviously, you're probably getting a better latte when your barista demonstrates the patience and craftsmanship it takes to make beautiful foam art in the midst of a bustling coffee shop, rather than slopping the steamed milk over espresso shots and slapping a lid over it, which is probably worth paying more for. You know, unless the art is actually a selfie.
Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and really couldn't care less about latte foam art -- most of the time. Send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.