Barista Magazine

JUN-JUL 2019

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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51 you can fi nd absolutely divine coffee in train stops and department stores. Ducking into the basement of one of Tokyo's shopping centers usually means unlocking stretches of markets, food stands, and restaurants that don't see the light of day but are frequented by the millions of people riding the subways and trains every day. You'll fi nd the original Tokyo Blue Bottle in the Shinjuku train sta- tion, and Santa Cruz, Calif.'s exceptional Verve has a fantastic café there, as well. Although these transplants are popular with locals, tourists, and, well, everyone, it seemed, we were on the hunt for local brands. Just outside our hotel in Shibuya, we were lucky enough to grab coffee from About Life. About Life is pretty much an espresso machine with a few pastries and a pourover stand, and no room for much else. We stood in the street drinking espresso from one of the four different guest roasters on that day. The baristas were meticulous, and watching them dial in every one of their single-origin coffees as I sipped my Guatemala pourover made me miss being behind the bar. Perhaps the beverage highlight of our trip, however, had nothing to do with coffee, but with tea. On the fi fth fl oor of a random art building, we found Sakurai, a tea shop where you order drinks like you would a restaurant. I opted for an a la carte green tea from Ho- jicha, while my partner decided on the tasting menu, which included fi ve extractions of three different Japanese green teas. We started with a high-grade gyokuro, which was brewed three times: the fi rst with just barely enough water to produce a few drops, the second with just a teensy bit more water, and the third brewed with sakura leaves and then iced. After the iced beverage, we were given gyokuro leaves to eat as a snack. After that, my friend was served a sencha tea and a matcha to close the service, and each tea was paired with a seasonal snack. I could go on forever about my eating and drinking experiences in Japan. For as ubiquitous as coffee is throughout Japan, the experiences vary widely, and to speak about a city or a region in general terms is impossible. You can have coffee in traditional kissatens in Tokyo and innovative brews on the side of a mountain in Hakone. True too is that another person's take on the coffee scene in Japan would be totally different from ours. This article isn't meant to be a de- fi nitive guide, but rather a taste of some of what's out there in a country whose culture is constantly changing, growing, and evolving. So many of the coff ee shops in Japan are captured in small details, like this sign welcoming customers to Embankment Coff ee.

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