Foret Coffee was the third of the three coffee shops my friend and local guide, Christopher, took me to when I visited Nagano last year, along with Hirano Coffee and Maruyama. When I passed through Nagano earlier this week, with a little bit of time to kill, I decided to pay Foret another visit, having enjoyed it so much last time (I would have revisited Hirano as well, but it closes on Tuesdays, the day I was there).
Foret is very much in the third-wave mould, a coffee shop/roaster (the coffee is roasted off-site) with a simple shop, occupying a sparsely-decorated concrete shell, with the counter on the right and the seating on the left. Unusually for Japan, it also caters to the takeaway market, with a separate takeaway window at the front of the counter, so you can get your coffee to go without setting foot inside.
Foret has a simple espresso-based menu using a seasonal espresso-blend, while if you want filter, there’s a wide selection of single-origins to choose from, conveniently segregated into light/medium roasts and dark roasts. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of scones and cookies, all baked on the open range behind the counter.
My first ever speciality coffee experience in Japan was at Maruyama Coffee in Nishi Azabu, conveniently located across the road from my hotel. Ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot for Maruyama Coffee, a high-end chain which has its origins in Nagano Prefecture. It was therefore fitting that when my friend and local guide, Christopher, took me on a coffee tour of Nagano, our first stop was Maruyama Coffee, which has a lovely coffee shop in the Midori shopping mall at Nagano Station. I also made a point of calling in on my return to Nagano on this trip.
Maruyama is a blend of traditional Japanese hospitality (table service, attentive staff, baskets to put your things in so that they don’t have to rest on the floor) and speciality coffee. In the former aspect, it’s very unlike western coffee shops; in its latter aspect, third-wave aficionados will instantly feel at home. As an added bonus, the Nagano Station location specialises in syphon coffee, which is prepared on the counter-top for all to see. Other than that, you get the usual Maruyama offering, with a bewildering choice of origins and blends through cafetiere and espresso, plus a small food menu.
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.