Meet the Roaster: Onibus Coffee

My Colombian El Paraiso, a washed coffee, being made in a V60 at the new Onibus coffee shop/roastery in Yakumo, Tokyo.One of the things I’ve really enjoyed during my various visits to Japan is exploring its varied speciality coffee scene. There’s a strong, local tradition of roasting high-quality coffee, with an emphasis on darker roasts, epitomised by the likes of Maruyama Coffee and Sarutahiko Coffee Ebisu. However, in recent years, there’s an up-and-coming local scene where the emphasis is on lighter roasters led by the likes of today’s Meet the Roaster, Onibus Coffee.

Onibus Coffee is a small coffee shop/roaster chain in Tokyo. Its Nakameguro location was one of my first stops when I came to Japan in 2017, my first time in the country. Back then, it also housed the roaster, in a small space behind the counter, but with the business steadily growing, the cramped conditions were proving impractical, so Onibus relocated the roastery to a new, dedicated coffee shop/roastery in Meguro.

I visited the coffee shop in September, on the first of this year’s two trips to Japan, where I was offered a tour of the roastery, scheduled for my returned in November. I gratefully accepted, heading over to the roastery in Yakumo on my first morning in Tokyo, where head roaster, Yohei, showed me around.

Continue reading

Little Nap Coffee Roasters

Detail from the sign on the wall: Little Nap Coffee RoastersI discovered Little Nap, the Tokyo-based coffee shop/roaster chain (of precisely two locations) when I visited the original, Little Nap Coffee Stand, in the summer of 2018. During that trip I also popped over to the second location, Little Nap Coffee Roasters, a short, 10-minute walk to the southwest. However, for various reasons, I never managed to write it up, so last week, on my most recent trip, I returned to check that nothing had changed.

Little Nap occupies a narrow, three-storey, standalone building on the south side of the busy highway which runs through the southern end of Yoyogi Park to the east. Downstairs, at the front, is a compact coffee shop, while at the back is an equally compact roastery. The first floor is home to the Little Nap Record Shop and, during my visit in 2018, hosted a pop-up kitchen, while the top floor is a gallery with rotating displays.

Little Nap serves a house-blend from a concise, espresso-based menu, with four seasonal single-origins on pour-over (hot or cold), with all the coffee available to buy in retail bags. There’s also a small range of sandwiches and hot dogs, plus a selection of cakes if you’re hungry.

Continue reading

Onibus Coffee, Yakumo

My Colombian El Paraiso, a washed coffee, being made in a V60 at the new Onibus coffee shop/roastery in Yakumo, Tokyo.Onibus Coffee is a small coffee shop/roaster chain in Tokyo. Its Nakameguro location was one of my first stops when I came to Japan in 2017, my first time in the country. Back then, it also housed the roaster, a cosy arrangement given how small the place was. However, on my return to Tokyo in September this year, I discovered that the roaster was gone, relocated to a new coffee shop/roastery in Meguro, so I headed over there to check it out.

The new coffee shop/roastery is Onibus’ fifth location, joining About Life Coffee Brewers and Ratio &C, plus the original location in Okusawa, which, in true Coffee Spot fashion, I’ve yet to visit! The coffee shop is a similar size to the Nakameguro coffee shop, but the roastery, which has its own Meet the Roaster feature, is in a much bigger space to the left.

The coffee shop, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, has the usual Onibus offering, with a several (five or six) single-origins available on both pour-over and espresso, where they are joined by the Step blend. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes, all baked in-house.

Continue reading

Brother Hubbard North

A latte art heart in my cortado, made with the Farmhand house-blend, at Brother Hubbard North in Dublin.I visited Brother Hubbard on my first trip to Dublin in 2014. Back then, it was a relatively small place, with a reputation for excellent food as well as really good coffee. So good, in fact, that after going there for breakfast, I returned for coffee later in the trip. 5½ years on, Brother Hubbard has added a second branch (Brother Hubbard South) while the original, reborn as Brother Hubbard North, has changed beyond (almost) all recognition. It’s now a takeaway joint, coffee shop, retailer and restaurant, with an on-site roastery, Farmhand, thrown in for good measure.

Normally, this would be a Coffee Spot Update, but with all the changes, I’ve gone for a complete re-write, leaving the original as is. These days Brother Hubbard serves a bespoke house-blend from in-house roaster, Farmhand, along with a single-origin on batch brew. There are grab-and-go goodies from the takeaway counter to the left, or you can sit in and enjoy breakfast, brunch or cake with your coffee. Finally, in the evenings, there’s a small but innovative dinner menu five nights a week. The space, by the way, is huge, with a long, thin indoor seating area, outdoor terrace and magnificent dining room.

Continue reading

Meet the Roaster: Chromatic Coffee

A bag of Chromatic Coffee's Gloria from San Jose, El Salvador, the very first farm that Chromatic worked with.Serendipity’s always played a large part in the Coffee Spot, even from its inception over seven years ago when someone said “why don’t you start a basketball blog” and I thought “a coffee blog! What an excellent idea!”. No matter how much I plan, chance discovery always plays its part and today’s Meet the Roaster is no exception

Visiting Chromatic Coffee was always part of the plan for my return to San Jose earlier this year. I’d heard great things about the coffee shop from my friend Richard on my first visit in 2017. Getting out to Santa Clara was also going to be the issue, so when Richard offered to drop me off on his way to work, I jumped at the chance.

Before I left, I had a long chat with the manager, who, on learning that I was staying in San Jose until the end of the week, suggested attending Chromatic’s public cupping, which takes place in the roastery every Thursday morning. And that led to me discovering that Chromatic’s roastery is a couple of blocks from Richard’s flat.

Naturally I went, enjoying not just the cupping, but also receiving a tour of the roastery to boot!

Continue reading

Dark Arts Coffee Japan

The familiar Dark Arts Coffee logo, but in Hayama rather than Hackney.I first discovered Dark Arts as a roaster, enjoying its coffee at various places, including London’s The Black Chapel, Chester’s Little Yellow Pig and Manchester’s Idle Hands and Siop Shop. This summer, after much patient encouragement on twitter from Mike Stanbridge, I finally visited I Will Kill Again, Dark Arts’ coffee shop/roastery in Homerton in East London. That safely out of the way, I thought I’d collect the full set, using trip to Japan in August/September this year to visit Dark Arts’ Japanese outpost in Hayama, a small town in the Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo.

Like I Will Kill Again, this is a coffee shop/roastery which opened in July 2018, although the Probat roaster was only installed in April this year. Prior to that, the coffee was imported from the UK roastery. The offering will be very familiar to anyone used to Dark Arts Coffee, with the likes of Lost Highway on espresso. This, like its UK counterpart, is a single-origin Nicaraguan, and while it has a similar taste profile, it’s a different bean. The coffee menu, meanwhile, is more typically Japanese, with plenty of iced options and various coffee cocktails. There’s also an all-day, western brunch menu, complete with specials.

Continue reading

Glitch Coffee & Roasters

The Glitch Coffee & Roasters logo from the wall next to the roaster.If you take a look at my coffee map of Tokyo, you’ll see that it’s strongly focused on Shibuya, Omotesandō and Aoyama, where I’ve spent most of my time, usually for work. Today’s Coffee Spot, Glitch Coffee & Roasters, is, in that sense, unusual. A well-established roastery/coffee shop, it’s located in Jimbōchō, just to the north of the Imperial Palace gardens, with a recently-opened second location, Glitch Coffee Brewed, in the Nine Hours capsule hotel in Akasaka.

Like many of Tokyo’s speciality coffee shop/roasters, Glitch Coffee & Roasters is a pretty small affair, with the roaster, a 5kg Probat, in the actual coffee shop on the right-hand side, in full view of the customers. Although a pair of single-origins are available on espresso, the focus is firmly on pour-over, where a further selection of single-origins (typically five or six) are available through the V60. All the beans are, naturally, available in retail bags, with Glitch specialising in light roasts.

Of particular interest to me were the tasting flights, where you can try two or three of the single-origin pour-overs (chosen by Glitch) side-by-side. A recent addition is the Geisha tasting flight, where you can compare two Geishas, again as pour-overs.

Continue reading

Higashide Coffee

The sign which hangs outside Higashide Coffee in Kanazawa.This time last week I was in Kanazawa on the north coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, where I unexpectedly found some excellent coffee. I say unexpectedly, since I wasn’t really looking, but I really struck it lucky with my hotel, with great coffee shops of varying styles and character all within a few minutes’ walk.

Higashide Coffee is a coffee shop/roastery in the mould of a traditional Japanese kissaten, such as Café de L’Ambre or Chatei Hatou, although the layout reminded me of a traditional American diner (Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, for example). All the coffee’s roasted on-site using what looks to me, at least, to be a very old Fuji Royal roaster, which sits in the window. In a move that I’ve not seen before, all the green beans are hand sorted before roasting, which is an impressive level of dedication!

There are around 20 origins to choose from, with roasts ranging from fairly light to very dark. They’re all available as pour-over, made to order behind the counter, while there’s also a limited espresso menu, plus a small selection of cakes. Be warned though, Higashide allows customers to smoke and, like many Japanese coffee shops, it’s cash only.

Continue reading

Wood St Coffee Roastery

The roaster, a 5 kg Probat, at Wood St Coffee in Walthamstow.Welcome to what has turned into a very rare occurrence: a new Meet the Roaster feature! This is just the second of the year after Peixoto Coffee Roasters, which came out in February. Mind you, that’s an improvement on last year, when I managed just one! The focus of today’s Meet the Roaster is Walthamstow’s Wood St Coffee, which started off six years as a Sunday pop-up in Wood Street Market, run by Gareth with the support of his girlfriend, Claire. Fast-forward six years, and Wood St has gone from a one-man, once-a-week operation to a thriving coffee shop and now roastery, employing multiple staff, a real success story and a testament to the hard work of Gareth, Claire and all their staff.

Although the roastery’s output is primarily to support the coffee shop, Wood St has a growing wholesale market, as well selling direct to the consumer. You can buy 250g bags of Wood St’s coffee in the coffee shop itself, or on-line on Wood St’s website. These days, all the coffee is roasted on-site using a 5 kg Probat in a container outside Wood St’s home in the Blackhorse Workshop, although, as we’ll see, that’s a fairly recent development.

Continue reading

Hirano Coffee

My coffee, a V60 of a Guatemalan single-origin, reflecting the greenery in Hirano Coffee, Nagano.Greetings from Japan, where I’m back in the mountains in the Nagano Prefecture, escaping the heat and humidity for a week before returning to Tokyo for two weeks of meetings! Since I’m here, I thought it was high time that I wrote up some of the Coffee Spots that my friend Christopher took me to when I was last in Nagano, in October last year, starting with Hirano Coffee.

Hirano isn’t that easy to find, tucked away in the back streets just south of the Zenkō-ji Temple, but it’s worth seeking out. A coffee shop/roastery, it occupies both floors of a two-storey house which looks and feels (to me at least) like a small, traditional Japanese dwelling, reminding me of & Espresso and Nem Coffee & Espresso. You can sit downstairs with the counter and roaster for company, or in the glorious upstairs.

All the coffee is roasted on the 5kg Fuji Royal behind the counter, and there’s a choice of five single-origins and five blends, plus a small selection of cakes and toast if you’re hungry. If you’re looking for espresso though, you’ve come to the wrong place, since Hirano only serves pour-over using a traditional cloth filter or V60.

Continue reading