Thursday, April 25, 2013
Harry Pot o’ Coffee... an ephemeral piece of artwork in foamed milk and espresso. Courtesy Kazuki Yamamoto and NPR.
When we were in Israel last summer, one of the wonderful little treats that accompanied the massive buffet-style hotel breakfasts we had every day was the coffee. Specifically, it was the espresso bar, where you could walk up and have your espresso, cappuccino, or latte made to order. Often the barista would add an extra little touch: a leaf, delicately drawn in the contrasting brown and white of the coffee and steamed milk froth. It was an ephemeral piece of art, one that would last mere moments before disappearing down my gaping, caffeine-starved maw... but it never failed to make me smile.
This art form is nothing new, of course. Anyone who has ever ordered a pint of Guinness from a reasonably skilled bartender has seen a shamrock rendered in Stout-Foam. This is kinda-sorta the same, but without the alcohol.
Now, however, artists in Japan are now upping the ante, with remarkable creations in milk froth. Peanuts characters, kitty cats, Einstein, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” - all have been rendered on the small canvas of the coffee mug. What do you call this art form? Baristart? Mug shots?
Design philosopher Leonard Koren, quoted in the NPR piece linked above, has this to say about Japanese aesthetics: “...Many things are beautiful precisely because they are short-lived and fragile.” What better example of fragility than a film of froth in a coffee cup? And what better way to find beauty in an unexpected place?