Coffee Cultures: Japan


We love learning from coffee cultures around the world. Not just unique brewing methods, but the surrounding philosophy and ceremonies to celebrate a world loved brew. Japan does like no other, and if there were one word to summarise Japanese coffee culture; Perfectionist. Unlike the hustle and fast paced nature of commodity coffee in the west, Japanese coffee culture is the total opposite.


 

Japanese Coffee History


Coffee first arrived on Japan's shores during the 1700s from Dutch traders. Coffee wasn't popular until the 20th century when the dubbed 'father of coffee in Japan' Tadao Ueshima, who launched the first coffee roasting business Ueshima Tadao Shoten.

Coffee has always been perceived as a ‘western’ commodity, and was in fact banned during World War II due to this reason. Post-war in an attempt for Japan to modernise its society, especially in Tokyo, the import of western goods was a sign of the new Japanese middle class which finally saw the ban on coffee products lifted in the 1960s.


At this time coffee was generally consumed by the upper class as a luxury product, but as the economy started to bounce back it became increasingly affordable. The import of instant coffee into Japan exponentially increased the outreach of coffee culture into society with convenience at the hearts of many people in busy Tokyo. There has also been a cultural shift in the traditional tea culture with many pop-up stores appearing all over the country. You will even find single drip-coffee packs at hotels, and in stores, which are essentially a much fresher, higher quality pre-packed coffee bag.



 

The art of the perfect coffee experience...


Since the coffee ban lift in the 1960s, Japan has developed its own philisophy around drinking coffee as an experience. Whilst the westernised rushed, and fast paced instant coffee culture has its place, the opposite has been growing. Whilst many third wave coffee shops globally are still intertwined with modern living, some of Japan's coffee shops reject modernity entirely!


Tokyo’s Baroque cinema of sound, Meikyoku Kissa - Lion sets the example of coffee as a focused experience. As Peter Giuliano, seniot director from the Speciality Coffee Association puts it, 'Meikyoku Kissa Lion is about drinking the perfect coffee, in the perfect environment, listening to the perfect music.' Talking loud and using smartphones is generally prohibited, and all music played comes from a huge selection of old rare vinyl records. Plenty of music which can't be accessed in the online world!


Further levels of perfection come in the art of taking 100% care and time to brew the perfect cup of coffee. Coffee legend Daibō Katsuji has mastered the art of his unique hand drip coffee method. Patience is a virtue, and Daibo takes 5 minutes to prepare each cup! Daibo grinds fresh coffee to a course setting, places it into a cloth filter, and slowly drips hot water over the coffee grounds, from the centre the moving slowly out in a circular motion. Daibo himself said in a recent interview 'When I stand behind the counter, concentrating and carefully watching every drip, I truly become myself. I think that rubbed off on the customers, allowing them to relax and be themselves too.' - https://www.nippon.com/en/japan-topics/b01730/daibo-coffee-a-tokyo-legend.html


Unfortunately Daibo's coffee shop is now permanently closed, but will be long remembered and respected for devotion to his craft, and nurturting a space for customers to focus and relax.

 

New frontiers in Japanese Coffee Culture


As is globally, big name coffee brands are popular in Japan but there has been an exceptional growth of independent coffee stores, with innovative brewing and roasting techniques all over the country. There is no doubt that behind these independents are owners with a love and passion for coffee which has subsequently influenced the birth of relaxed and focused coffee experiences, and of course the V60! The V60 isn't the easiest of brew methods, but with 100% of your attention, the focus on the craft can yield outstanding coffee to be fully appreciated!


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