In the land where green tea remains the hot beverage of choice, 3D coffee art is winning hearts one foamy cup at a time.
More and more cafe goers in Japan, inspired by popular photos on social media that show steamed milk creations rising out of a coffee drink, are asking that their latte be topped with a similar work of lofty art.
In 2010, Haruna Murayama of Japan won the World Latte Art Championship.
Flat latte art is already popular around the island nation. A search of “latte art” [ja] on Twitter returns many photos of special lattes bearing the shapes of hearts, leaves, teddy bears, popular anime characters, and even Internet icons.
A vending machine in Haneda Airport, Tokyo's international airport, even serves cappuccino [ja] with the face of a classic Japanese female, designed and produced by Kyoto's well-known cosmetic company Yojiya.
YouTube user Nowtoo Sugi uploaded the following video explaining how he drew character onto a coffee latte with chocolate syrup:
Reaching new heights
But baristas have pushed this creative coffee phenomena to a new level with foamy 3D sculptures.
Kazuki Yamamoto (@george_10g), the latte art master who uploads his latte art on Twitter, wrote in his blog that he works at a Belgian beer house in Osaka. He calls his latte art “spare time cappuccino” [暇カプチーノ], a creation out of boredom or spare time, of course with great efforts and labor of love. He once posted to Twitter recalling numerous works of latte art that he had drawn:
@george_10g: I started drawing on lattes in 2011 and I've drawn and served roughly about 1,000 cups by 2012 but somehow I still remember when and what I've drawn and who I served it for. It's kind of creepy.
@petakopetako: I like taking photos. Normally I am bad at remembering people's faces, but once I take photos of them, I can remember where it was and what they were talking about. Maybe people remember things better when doing something they are passionate about.
The social media effect
Cafe owners and baristas in Japan have uploaded photos of their secret, off-the-menu 3D latte art to social media. These images were circulated widely and later gained the attention of local broadcasters and magazines.
The publicity has attracted so many new clients to some coffee houses that owners are struggling to keep up. The owner of Cafe Bar Jihan in Shizuoka prefecture wrote about Facebook effect in his blog [ja]:
I started serving 3D latte art after my long-time customer asked me to do it. I uploaded the picture on Facebook page just for fun, then I was astonished to see the enormous number of people who liked the photo. With the image widely amplified, several media outlets asked me that they wanted to cover our coffeehouse. I was a bit confused by being asked to appear on television in Tokyo!
He also wrote [ja]:
This kitty cat latte art requires so much time that I can't take orders when things are busy in our cafe. I've been struggling with what to do about this situation. At least the cafe is relatively slow after 6 p.m. on weekdays, so if you are visiting for 3D latte art, please come around these times.