$230 Balmuda Toaster Makes Waves
Japanese appliance maker Balmuda has created one of the most expensive toasters on the market- a $230 home appliance that claims to toast bread perfectly, every time.
Whereas traditional toasters- which have changed little since they received their outer casings in the 1920’s- are generally thought to be the most disposable and affordable, low-tech kitchen appliances currently in wide circulation, Balmuda has transformed what was once old-school into a high-tech gadget determined to improve your quality of life.
The Balmuda toaster uses steam and carefully calibrated heat cycles to ensure perfectly toasted toast every time. It can transform store-bought bread into toast that feels, tastes and smells like it just came out of the oven of a professional baker. This propensity for creating luxury toast has led Balmuda to deem the gadget worthy of a price five times its more drab competitors. Apparently a fair amount of Japanese citizens agree, as pre-orders for the toasters have led to a three-month waiting list, all without Balmuda spending a penny on advertising.
So how did a company that generally creates flat screen TVs, walkmen and digital cameras wander into the territory of gourmet toast making? The story goes that a Balmuda company picnic was unfortunately thrown on a rainy day. Stubborn partiers warmed their bread on a grill despite the wet weather and found, to their surprise, that under those conditions they were able to make delicious, perfectly prepared toast.
Among the toasters was company founder Gen Terao and his group of product designers. They attempted to reproduce their delicious toast sometime later, but found that fair weather conditions wouldn’t allow it. Eventually someone made the connection that water was necessary for the yeasty delights of the company’s past picnics and, thousands of test slices later, the group figured out that steam is able to trap moisture inside a slice of bread while it’s being warmed at low temperatures. Cranking up the heat at the very end can couple this pleasant texture with the crust present in all toast we know and love.
“The best results are with croissants,” advised Mark Oda, who works on web and media content in Tokyo and was the first ever purchaser of Balmuda’s toaster. “I can never go back to 5,000-yen toasters.”
Terao’s ambition to reinvent the toaster may be explained by the flexible and creative mindset from which he views the world in general. Terao wasn’t always the head of a tech company; in his teen years he dropped out of high school, cashed a life-insurance payout after the death of his mother, and trekked across Spain, Morocco and the Mediterranean. He returned to Japan to front a rock band called the Beach Fighters, which scored a record deal but never became famous. Eventually he convinced a small local factory to allow him to use their milling machines and started making simple, useful products like laptop stands, desk lights, and electric fans. Finally, in 2014, he turned his intentions to food, because “eating is a moving experience.”
Now Balmuda can’t keep stores stocked with their famous toaster, but the company still plans to start expanding sales to South Korea.