Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Page 44 of 103

J A PA N ONCE WE LOOKED UP when the cherry blossoms would bloom, we chose that part of springtime for our trip to Japan. Is it reckless to buy transcontinental plane tickets on Christmas after one (or two, or three) mimosas? Perhaps, but an impetuous purchase in Decem- ber led to one of the most exciting trips of my life so far with lots of coffee along the way. My boyfriend, a fellow coffee pro, has a brother who lives in Tokyo, so we decided to plan our travel around visiting his family during their spring break. That meant we had almost a week and a half to travel around the country, and hopefully catch the cherry blossoms, which only bloom for about a week every year, some- where along the way. Along with researching the best spots to see the sakura, which attracts people from around the world to revel in the cherry blossoms' beauty, we also studied up on some of the best coffee spots across the country. We started our trip in Hakone, a mountain town about an hour by train southwest of Tokyo. Hakone is known for its onsens, or natural hot springs, because of its proximity to Mount Fuji, the country's highest peak. For a moment after we'd arrived, we were sure that we'd have to subsist on our industrial supply of Sudden Coffee vials we'd packed with us: We were on a mountain, and a preliminary Google search didn't show too many coffee shops with- in walking distance. A trek up a hill to a nearby town called Gora, however, revealed Café Ryusenkei, a converted Airstream hiding behind the neighborhood brewery. Café Ryusenkei is a one-person operation serving single-origin pourovers, hot wine, and clam chowder. When we walked in, a woman eating clam chowder asked us how we found this spot and if it was famous. We told her we only saw the sign for the café after drinking a beer at the Gora Brewery (where you can take your beer outside and enjoy your brew while soaking your feet in a hot spring). This quickly became our spot in Hakone, well worth the trek straight up a hill. If you're ever in a bind for coffee in Japan, fear not. Vending machines dot the streets, often serving a number of ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee options, and you can identify them by their signature blue color and the words "coffee boss" written on them in bold white letters. Like- wise, convenience stores like 7-Eleven and Lawson stock fridges full of cold canned coffee, along with some of the best RTD iced green teas that I've ever tasted. Opposite page, at top: In Kyoto, Walden Woods takes the "woods" part of their name seriously. The second fl oor, which has no tables but houses stadium seats for patrons to enjoy their coff ee, is a stark se ing with a leafl ess tree nestled in the middle of the room. Below: A barista cleans her station before preparing a shot of espresso from About Life, a multi-roaster shop in Tokyo. On weekday mornings, expats sit on the corner of the street waiting for the shop to open its doors at 8:30. This page: A wall at Fuglen, a Nordic-style shop in the Shibuya neighborhood in Tokyo (there's another location in Taito and the original location is in Oslo, Norway). You can either grab a seat in one of the shop's modern-style couches or head over to the bar and watch the baristas make your drinks. 45

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