Nineteen artists go cup to cup in Japan’s first ‘latte art’ contest

by Kazuaki Nagata

Nineteen artists gathered at Blenz Coffee in Tokyo’s Aoyama district Saturday to show off their skill at “latte art,” a tasty endeavor that uses coffee as the canvas for creating paintings from foam milk.

The competition, the first latte art contest in Japan, was hosted by B&M Co., the operator of Blenz Coffee in Japan.

There are “really three good reasons to have a latte art competition. One is for love, one is for taste and the other is for craftsmanship,” said Geoffrey Hair, director and cofounder of Blenz the Canadian Coffee Co., who was one of the judges at the contest.

After a preliminary round narrowed down the contestants to six during the morning, the final round was held in the afternoon, with the winner collecting ¥100,000 in prize money and the right to compete at the international latte art contest in Vancouver in September.

The winner was Asuka Yoshimoto, 29, who works at Double Tall cafe in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward. She trumped her coffee competitors by whipping up a classy cup of java featuring a leaf motif.

The competition was held in a free-pour style, which bans the artists from using any drawing tools but milk pitchers.

The artists are so good at manipulating the pitchers that they can even make drawings, including leaves and hearts.

“You can never make the same latte art. Every time, it’s different,” Hiroshi Sawada, who took second place, said of his passion.

Sawada, who has been practicing latte art for about five years and participated in overseas competitions, said he hopes that latte art culture will spread more widely in Japan in the near future.