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Would you like some art with that coffee?

Tim and Kati Case believe in giving people a little art with their lattés.

The husband-and-wife team who own Case Coffee Company on Siskiyou Boulevard have mastered decorative designs on the top of drinks that range from simple hearts to a French man's face.

"It's fun giving it to a customer who's not expecting it," Tim Case said. "We have so many people ask if they can take pictures."

The secret to successful designs is to start with velvety frothed milk with tiny bubbles known as "microfoam" in the barista world, Kati Case said.

Her first foray into coffee shop art came when she learned to pour foamed milk over espresso in just the right way to form a heart. Experimenting one day, Kati Case created the face of a French man, complete with eyebrows and a pencil-thin mustache.

The Cases' other designs include an elaborate web that starts with drizzled chocolate and a whimsical teddy bear that even has eyelashes.

Tim and Kati Case are each just 23 years old, which makes it hard for some of their customers to believe they are actually the owners of the coffee shop and not just employees. But they have dreamed of owning a business ever since they met at the age of 16.

The couple opened Case Coffee Shop, located across from Southern Oregon University, in the fall of 2006.

They don't have the stress of having a boss, but being business owners comes with its own share of worries, responsibilities — and rewards, Kati Case said.

"It's kind of scary the first year. But there's no feeling like it. We can support ourselves," she said.

High gas prices and the economic slowdown have caused some people to cut back on pricey coffee drinks, but Tim Case said their business is still growing month to month.

"It's a cheap luxury," Kati Case said. "People may not be buying big screen TVs, but they can still buy a cup of latté in the morning."

She said that making designs with foam, chocolate and espresso creates drinkable works of art that customers deserve since they're paying about $3 for a drink.

Regular customers Mimi and Marshall Umpleby said the Cases make excellent tasting drinks and they enjoy seeing the designs.

On a recent afternoon, Kati Case slid a double machiatto with chocolate sauce etching across the counter to Marshall Umpleby.

"Now isn't that a work of art?" he asked.

Kati Case said some customers request certain designs, but the Umplebys like to be surprised.

"She makes new stuff all the time," Mimi Umpleby said.

Marshall Umpleby added, "She's raised the bar very high."

Asked what art she's thinking about making next on top of a drink, Kati Case laughingly responded, "The Last Supper."

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. To post a comment, visit www.dailytidings.com.