After we left Bear Pond Espresso, we wandered around Shimokitazawa and explored the shops; that is how we found BALLON D’ESSAI. BALLON D’ESSAI literally means trial balloon in French. The idea is that customers come and hopefully, they can find what they are searching from a hot-air balloon vantage point. It is clear that latte art is the main draw: pictures of latte art are displayed prominently.
There is a fleeting beauty about latte art: it is a temporary masterpiece that is lost forever when you take your first sip. Like latte art, memories are ephemeral. Photo taking is a way to capture and preserve memories you treasure. Photos of latte art are ubiquitous in social media channels with the proliferation of smartphones. Instead of just free pour rosetta, heart or tulip, etching techniques are used to create exquisite designs. Here, you can hear exasperated gasps of ‘kawaii’ before a photo snapping frenzy begins.
Opened in June 2012, BALLON D’ESSAI aspires to be an art gallery cum café that provides a platform for art-lovers to interact. Works by up-and-coming artists bedecked walls of the small café. The melding of art and coffee is apt as latte art is also an artistic expression albeit on a different canvas. A trial balloon is a project or policy put forward experimentally to gauge reactions to it. BALLON D’ESSAI is just that. It gives art-lovers a preview; it also provides a test bed for artists. Susumu Fujimiya is the amiable barista and he cuts a familiar figure. We have seen him compete at Japan Latte Art Championship. He warmly welcomed us, introducing the blend and single origin coffee available on 2 hoppers.
Workshops and seminars are open for signups. Mastering latte art is an utterly complex affair: it is both a science and art where many technical as well as aesthetic skills are required. We ordered two lattes and were too enraptured by the art that we forgot to take down taste notes!
“Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.”
Over the years, I began to appreciate times when moments turn into memories. Like latte art, our Tokyo Coffee Trail will soon become nothing, but an evocative memory, I thought, stepping out with a knowing smile.
Facebook: BALLON D’ESSAI
Website: BALLON D’ESSAI
Address: 2-30-11 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo