BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. - During any given lunch hour, customers line up inside Hitchcock Deli for the fresh bread and house-cured meats.
It's a place built on keeping it real.
And that includes the coffee.
"We were really focused on traditional Italian espresso," said Chef Brendan McGill, who owns the deli. "The concept was getting perfect shots, properly textured milk, and classic free-pour foam."
But then, barista Kale Lotton came along. He's a self-described "closet artist" who found his medium in crema and foam.
"If someone grabs it and puts a lid on it right away, it's totally fine with me. I'm just doing my thing," Lotton laughed. "And if they love it, that's even better, you know?"
His lattes demand attention - and not just for how they taste. He can adorn the top with just about any image you can imagine, from sea creatures to an elephant with a wrinkled trunk. Lotton even created a portrait of a co-worker out of steamed milk.
"When people get happy and smile, it makes me smile," he said.
His creations are so detailed and effortless, it's hard to believe he's self-taught.
"I watched some YouTube videos when I first started making coffee and I went wow, I want to do that," he said.
Lotton honed his skills using an etching technique, with two very simple tools: a spoon and a toothpick.
"For the most part, I'm using the end of the spoon as kind of like a bigger paintbrush, stretching the milk out," he explained. "For the more fine detail work, I'll kind of like paint with the toothpick."
It's the kind of art that begs to be photographed and shared. Lotton's lattes have become sensations on Instagram.
"Pretty soon, everyone was coming in for it," McGill said. "And now he's got a cult following."
Hitchcock Deli is located on Winslow Way East on Bainbridge Island, right off the ferry dock.