Kristen F.

Espresso Secrets at Shimo-Kita cafe

Experiment with art lattes at Ballon D'essai

Kristen F.
Kristen F   - 3 min read

How do they do that?! It's the question hovering around every gorgeously crafted art latte from Yokohama to Tokyo.

To the sheer good luck of latte lovers everywhere, Ballon D'essai in Shimo-kitazawa offers affordable and quick lessons on how to make brews beautiful.

Nestled in a barrel-shaped room on the first floor of a Shimo-kita style "rustic" building, Ballon D'essai is a rich experience for any coffee connoisseur. With its espresso machine contained in a mod steel cage designed at the center of the room, this cafe named "Experimental balloon" in French is slightly dramatic in its approach to the coffee art.

And impress it does.

With 10 years of experience or more, the artists of Ballon D'essai offer reasonably priced workshops so the masses can learn to do tasty, frothy magic. Their website warns that reservations are a must and guests can expect a wait at the tiny cafe.

The classes promise "a commentary about the practice of pouring" and "a description of frothing and espresso extraction" all presented in front of the shiny "latte art championship officially recognized" machine.

Guests can choose from learning two to five different designs, with classes ranging from fifteen to ninety minutes. The classes are offered in Japanese, of course.

At this cafe slash gallery, anyone waiting can enjoy the works of a featured artist or photographer, changing as regularly as the coffee bean roast. Recently featuring a photographer fond of Hawaiian landscapes and surfers, the witty owners at Ballon roasted some Hawaiian beans in complement. A magazine rack by the front door shows bookmarked pages of the multiple features about the cafe from area publications.

While the art latte may reign, in hot summer months it becomes difficult to ignore the yummy affogato-- espresso topped with ice cream. Anyone not wanting their liquid black gold diluted by milk can savor the demitasse Espresso naked, with just a shot in a little glass.

For a sharp tang, the Romano, or espresso with lemon peel comes in a demitasse, as well.

Cafe visitors who can't take the caffeine but still want the experience that is Ballon D'essai can always order an iced Chocolate, classic chocolate and milk over ice.

Judging from the smoothness of the bean selection and the intricacies of the latte art which can be viewed in a gallery on Ballon D'essai's website, this place is serious about what it does.

Where better to learn than from the best? And where better than the "experimental balloon" cafe, can the question be answered, "How do they do that!?"

Kristen F

Kristen F @kristen.foster

Hi, I'm Kristen. I'm a native Floridian. Living between Yokohama and Tokyo. I've worked as a journalist, backpacked the UK, and floated down a few rivers in Mexico. Receiving my degree in Journalism and International studies, I'm always foraging for a good bite or a good story. For a while,...