Latte Art, Experimentally Investigated

Back in March, Aaron wrote a popular philosophy essay about latte art, which incorporates perspectives from philosophy, psychology, and practice. He concluded on a speculative note:

It seems that latte art can make a difference to us. Neither taste nor even flavour experiences are all we care about when it comes to a cup of coffee. […] Latte art surely affects the visual experience of sighted drinkers of coffee […] it seems possible—although I know of no research directly on the question—that latte art could affect how we taste the coffee beneath it. […] If this is right, then it is possible that latte art itself could have a subtle effect on perceived coffee flavour. So if latte art is an art, it could be an art that really matters!

An article in the August issue of Journal of Sensory Studies empirically investigates exactly this topic. A group of researchers, including psychologist Charles Spence and Colonna & Small‘s Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, empirically investigated the effect of latte art on how people perceive and value coffee. What’s the practical upshot?

The results reported here suggest that the addition
of latte art influences how much people expect, and are willing to pay for milkbased coffees. As such, for the cafe owner thinking about how to increase profits, the experiments reported here suggest thapeople are willing to pay between 11–13% more for coffee with latte art than for those without it.

Very interesting finding!