Japan's Coffee Obsession Explained (James Hoffmann)

Want to talk espresso but not sure which forum? If so, this is the right one.
stangman
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#1: Post by stangman »


Capuchin Monk
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#2: Post by Capuchin Monk »

By not seeing as many roasting, grinding and brewing (espresso) machines coming out of Japan, I thought coffee isn't that popular there. I would like to see some Japanese designed roasters. Or did I not look at the right places? :?

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baldheadracing
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#3: Post by baldheadracing replying to Capuchin Monk »

Look at pourover equipment. Ever heard of Hario, or, more recently, Origami :wink:?

There are Japanese roasters and grinders as well; they just have no desire to sell outside of their home market - or sell/support in English. Fuji-Royal is one the biggest in grinders and non-manual shop roasters, and does have a translation of some of their website: https://fuji-royal.jp/en/
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

espressoren
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#4: Post by espressoren »

Zojirushi makes what looks to be a pretty advanced drip machine.

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MNate
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#5: Post by MNate »

Our family may be heading to Japan this year so it's nice to learn a bit about their coffee. I didn't see anything less than very dark in the video, but I'll be open to trying things the way they do. Any shops people recommend? (I haven't yet started researching or looking through other threads yet so maybe there is info already).

randytsuch
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#6: Post by randytsuch »

Voltage in Japan is 100 VAC.
I also just learned the frequency depends on where in Japan, can be 50 or 60 Hz, but more is 60.

So all their heaters will be designed to run from 100V

I visited Japan about 15 years ago, don't remember a big coffee culture, but I didn't look either. And maybe it wasn't as popular that long ago, lots has changed in the US in 15 years.

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romlee
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#7: Post by romlee »

My family and I lived in Tokyo during the mid-to-late 90's. We had moved there from Seattle and Starbucks had just opened it's Ginza location (like many foreign companies, it partnered with a Japanese beverage/food company for it's localized expertise and real estate affiliations).

Kisatens then were the province of older Japanese. It was the place for the "kohi setto" (coffee and cake fixed set) and to smoke (Starbucks was one of the very few exceptions to this tradition). French press was the preferred brew in Tokyo at the time. Customers were a mix of single men or women enjoying a little solitude, and business people. I rarely saw anyone under 25 years old and most wouldn't have been caught dead at a kisaten. The posted video does a good job showing how this has shifted!

We brought our Gaggia Baby and grinder with us to Tokyo since the standard voltage in Tokyo was 100v. I bought a plug conversion kit and everything worked great. The challenge was finding whole bean coffee. I tried tracking down a source in Tokyo but was met with puzzled looks and a sense of wonderment: "why would you want this?". Starbucks had a limited supply of whole beans and there was an erratic source from a very small roaster in Tokyo. I ended up asking a friend to mail us a month's supply of beans from Seattle.

It seems Japan has, unsurprisingly, become very much like Seoul, Korea. On my last trip there to visit family in August 2022 I had tasty pour overs and espresso at several sit-down and stand-up cafés. Like E61 machines, they are ubiquitous.

A few observations:

Many Japanese live in apartments with small kitchens. There's not a lot of room for machines/grinders you'd find in the States. Manual lever machines and pour over set ups are probably more likely, as well as hand grinders.

It's sometimes not for lack of small machines that will fit in smaller homes or apartments.

Culturally, food and drink are a shared experience in Japan, oft times due to expedience and space. Kisatens and boutique cafés are everywhere because you can meet up with like-minded friends in a larger space that offers an experience you can't easily replicate at your home or small apartment.

Japanese (and to a similar extent, Koreans) will buy a $20 apple or $75 melon. They're perfectly ripened and shaped. And they're meant to share or gift. They are enjoyed intimately with another person or in a larger group of friends and acquaintances. The staggering number of vending machines everywhere in Japan (for example, just visit any vaunted shrine or temple in Tokyo, Kyoto. . .you name it, and you'll find a rank of brightly lit vending machines), offer drinks/beverages for people in a hurry with no time or need for this sort of intimacy or sharing. It's a convenience, that's all.

I can imagine that this may all change, yet again, as the Japanese population ages and declines (as it has and will in other Asian countries). It already has in many ways. Washington State has had success selling smaller less expensive fruit in Japan due to the ongoing change in demographics (more Japanese buying apples that are consumed by a single person).

It might be also that we'll see more (innovative) equipment coming out of Japan and Korea that will gain traction internationally although I personally think that'll happen when you see products that are specifically designed for international markets rather than those adapted from the home market for import.
“Be curious, not judgemental.” T. Lasso

Milligan
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#8: Post by Milligan »

I watched this a bit ago. I thought it was pretty neat but I could tell the host didn't know too much about coffee (maybe I'm off base here, but it was my initial reaction.) He referred to the "fall" of kissaten being due to the "slow roasted" coffee served there compared to the fast lifestyle of folks (around the 6:45 mark.) Perhaps he meant "slower service?" Perhaps a shift toward grab-in-go or coffee brewed at home? Maybe he used "slow roasted" as a metaphor instead of literal? Not sure. Practically everything was dark roasted until the late 90's and 2000s.

I've never been to Japan, but I have heard a lot of very high end coffee finds it way there. I found it interesting how many bottled options there are. I feel like there are a lot of "cold brew" canned options in the states but I don't find them to be as widely popular as they seem to be in Japan.

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baldheadracing
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#9: Post by baldheadracing replying to Milligan »

Kissaten traditionally roasted their own coffee using manual roasting machines. It can be a slow process (not a real-time video, but you should get the idea). This style of roaster is still being made, albeit no longer by Fuji Royal:

Here's a classic kissaten, now closed. Commentary is by James Freeman, the Blue Bottle guy. This clip is from the excellent 2014 film, A Film About Coffee
As an aside, I find that the grinder in the video - an older Fuji Royal R-440 - is excellent for dark roast pourover. Shipping from Japan can be awfully expensive though.
-"Good quality brings happiness as you use it" - Nobuho Miya, Kamasada

Capuchin Monk
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#10: Post by Capuchin Monk »

baldheadracing wrote:Fuji-Royal is one the biggest in grinders and non-manual shop roasters, and does have a translation of some of their website: https://fuji-royal.jp/en/
Thanks. Their smaller roasters look real heavy duty (thick metal plate, big bolts... etc). :shock: Shipping may be the limiting factor for exports. :lol: