So there I was, minding my own business at the London Coffee Festival, when I ran into Lisa of Dear Green Coffee, organiser of the Glasgow Coffee Festival. Rather foolishly, I mentioned that I was flying to Japan that week, returning just in time for the festival. Well, said Lisa, in that case, why not bring back some Japanese coffee and we can have a cupping? Why not indeed…
Fast-forward two weeks and there I am in Tokyo, thinking that I really should get do something about my rather spur-of-the-moment agreement to Lisa’s proposal. Fortunately, I’d just embarked on a week’s travelling around Japan, so was able to pick up a rather eclectic mix of Japanese-roasted coffee.
Like my trip, there was no great planning involved in my purchasing, which might explain why I brought back with three Kenyans, two Ethiopians and a pair from Costa Rica. Typically I either bought something I’d tried (such as the Ethiopian I picked up from Kaido Books And Coffee) or I asked for recommendations. With hindsight, I rather wished I’d got some of the aged Kenyan coffee I had at Café de L’Ambre, but alas that thought only came to me five minutes ago…
You can discover which coffees I did get after the gallery.
In choosing my coffee for the cupping, I didn’t target particular roasters or try to get a representative spread of either origins or of roasters within Japan, which might explain the preponderance of places from Kyoto. In most cases, I bought the coffee from coffee shops, although since about half the coffee shops I visited were also roasters, this meant that quite a bit of it came directly from the roaster anyway.
So, I present, in no particular order, although grouped by country of origin, the seven coffees I ended up bringing back with me.
Sentido Speciality Coffee / Coffeetime Kyoto – Nyeri
Sentido Speciality Coffee is a lovely little coffee shop in Kyoto. Its coffee is roasted by Coffeetime Kyoto and I had this Nyeri through the cafetiere when I visited. I was sufficiently impressed to buy a bag of the beans for the cupping. I also had a gorgeous Rwandan espresso afterwards which was one of the highlights, coffee-wise, of the trip!
Weekenders Coffee – Kainamui AA
Another Kyoto outfit, Weekenders is a roaster with its own tiny coffee shop hidden at the back of a car park in downtown Kyoto. I had a flat white with the house-blend while I was there and selected this Kenyan Kainamui AA very much on spec. I also had another Weekender Coffee, a rather fabulous bespoke espresso blend at Vermillion, which was another of the trip’s coffee highlights.
The Local Coffee Stand was a chance discovery on my way to the office in Tokyo. In a market dominated by roaster/coffee shop chains, It’s a rarity, in that it’s a multi-roaster, set up to showcase the best of Japanese-roasted coffee. On my final visit, I explained about the Glasgow Coffee Festival and the barista recommended the Gatina Factory from Rokumei Coffee, a roaster from the city of Nara.
Ogawa Coffee – Yirgacheffe Moka
I first came across Ogawa Coffee in Boston, so when I was in its home town of Kyoto, I made a bee-line for the first Ogawa branch I could find, which was at the railway station. I had a lovely Panama pour-over there and immediately decided to buy some for the cupping. Unfortunately, Ogawa had sold out of the beans, so after some discussion, I selected this Yirgacheffe Mocha.
The delightful Kaido Books and Coffee was another chance discovery near my hotel for the final part of my trip. There was a selection of coffee from And Coffee Roasters and Ishikawa Coffee. I had this Yirgacheffe Wolleka as both espresso and pour-over and was sufficiently impressed with it that I bought a bag for the cupping. It’s roasted by And Coffee Roasters from Kumamoto in the far west of Japan.
The Costa Ricans
In fact, I picked up two coffees from my chance discovery, The Local Coffee Stand. The second, also recommended by the barista, who was keen that I try roasters from outside Tokyo, was the Carrizal from Trunk Coffee, a roaster from the city of Nagoya.
Sarutahiko Coffee – Los Angeles el Vendaval WH
Of the cluster of coffee shops around my office in Tokyo, Sarutahiko Coffee was the only Japanese one. I also visited the original in Ebusi, where I had an excellent Panama espresso. Naturally I wanted to buy some beans for the cupping, but for the second time on the trip, a Panama had sold out, so I selected this Los Angeles el Vendaval WH instead.
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