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.
So there you have it. Seven coffees, all waiting to be cupped at the Glasgow Coffee Festival. If you want to see what we made of them, you can find out in Part II of my Glasgow Coffee Festival report.
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