I believe that a cup of coffee is a work of art, whether it’s the coffee beans used or the way it’s being brewed. Baristas near and far practice their latte art skills day in and day out to perfect the rosetta, but if you delve into Japan’s latte art scene, you’ll find that Japanese baristas are taking it to a whole new level.
Japanese latte art is no joke. It goes beyond the classic heart and swan free-pouring – don’t be surprised to see an anime character or even your own face printed on your cup of joe. You might even have a 3D foam kitty in your coffee to keep you company. Japan’s full of new ventures, and that includes giving their lattes a creative twist.
2D Japanese Latte Art
It goes without saying that speciality coffee shops in Japan serve your latte with the free-pour technique. The common designs are the same everywhere else – hearts and rosetta, and if you’re lucky, you just might get a swan.
Dig a little deeper into Japan’s coffee culture and get everything from rainbow latte art to ‘printed’ designs on your coffee. One of the biggest masters of 2D latte art is Kohei Matsuno, a self-taught latte artist originally freelancing to showcase his work. He opened his own shop in Tokyo called HATCOFFEE, where he creates customised orders. Customers can bring in a picture of the design they want, pick their drink choice, and choose between 2D and 3D.
Another cafe in Tokyo, much lesser-known, takes a different creative approach to its latte art. Roar Cafe, not too far from Tokyo Station, presents the familiar hearts, rosettas and swans in multi colours. Customers can choose between having your espresso shot poured in before or after the art’s created; if you opt for the former, your base will be the usual coffee colour, and if you opt for the latter, you have a white base beneath the design.
FortuneLatte Cafe at Gundam Cafe in Tokyo offers a more personalised experience, even though the latte art is not done by hand. After choosing the base drink, you play mini-games and answer a few questions on a tablet. The design pattern that’s printed on the drink is based on the response – you won’t know what the design is until you get your drink. My friend, Alev, shared her experience when she went there a couple of weeks ago.
I think it’s great you can customise the latte art. It makes it special for the person – Alev noted.
3D Japanese Latte Art
Printed anime characters and rainbow latte art are not all Japan has to offer – 3D latte art has caught the attention of many. Reissue in Tokyo’s fashionable neighbourhood, Harajuku, is the first latte art cafe that opened its doors in 2015. Kazuki Yamamoto is the master foam artist of this cafe, and he’s a pretty known name in the Japanese latte art scene. Everything from a cute kitty to Pokemon’s Pikachu, Yamamoto can create them in 2D or 3D on your cup.
Tokyo isn’t the only city with skilled and creative latte artists. I went to a cafe in Kyoto that’s popular for its 3D latte art. At Sanryo Suisen, these cut bears and cats aren’t popping out of brown coffee, but instead, protrude from green matcha latte. This traditional tea house, which offers all things matcha, has two options for your 3D latte art: their classic option or “design it yourself” where you can draw the details of the foam yourself.
It’s not only speciality shops that have 3D latte art – a pancake chain restaurant called Elk Cafe, spread all around the island nation, can add a foam bear or two on your coffee or chocolate for an extra ¥80 (USD0.80)!
Latte Art Vending Machines
Vending machines are a huge part of Japanese culture, and so is coffee. While it’s already a norm to have coffee canned and sold at vending machines, it wasn’t until a few years ago that latte art was made accessible in these coin-operated machines.
The first vending machine to do that is called “Yojiya Cafe Selection”, located at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. It’s not your artisan cup of joe from a speciality coffee shop – this ¥200 coffee comes in a paper cup and the only choice of latte art is the brand’s logo printed with powdered sprinkles, but it’s a good step towards making vending coffees more creative.
Recently, there are vending machines that allow customers to send their picture design via Bluetooth. It’ll then be printed on their drink, with the option for the design to be in colour or not.
The Japanese Latte Art Gadget
With the current worldwide situation, it’s not that easy to book a flight to Japan to savour that cute 3D kitty in your coffee. So instead, you can bring the Japanese latte art to the comfort of your own home. With the Japanese latte art gadget, AwaTaccino, you can be your own 3D latte artist. It’s been trial and tested by various bloggers and YouTubers, and it works perfectly well.
The AwaTaccino is effortlessly easy to use and can be used on more than just coffee. It’s best to use low-fat or non-fat milk for the foam – the lower the fat content in the milk, the better the foam will be – and for the milk to be cold. After frothing the milk, the foam is left to sit for two minutes before you can bring your drowning bear design to life.
Tokyo’s coffee scene alone is huge, let alone the whole of Japan – there’s bound to be other yet-to-be-discovered local coffee shops that push the limit of Japanese latte art. Japanese baristas are always up for the creative challenge with the likes of charcoal latte art to matcha lattes becoming the norm. Who’s to say what they’re up to next?