The panel discuss a new brewpub/pizzeria in Kanda and the World Barista Championship in Bogotá, Columbia
The Japan Eats Podcast is presented by Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt, and Christopher Pellegrini. To listen, click play on the audio player below:
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In this week’s Japan Eats Podcast, Garrett DeOrio, James Steele and Christopher Pellegrini talk brewpubs and baristas.
Here are some links to what we discussed this week:
- DevilCraft (English)
- World Barista Championships (English)
- Illustrated coffee guide” (English). Well worth a look for the comments alone.
- James’s review of The Apartment Cafe in Harajuku.
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This week: Christopher Pellegrini visits Koganei Shuzo and a discussion of Japanese coffee culture
The Japan Eats Podcast is presented by Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt, and Christopher Pellegrini. To listen, click play on the audio player below.
In this week’s Japan Eats Podcast, Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt, and Christopher Pellegrini discuss Koganei Shuzo and Japanese coffee culture.
Here are some links to the things we discussed this week:
- Koganei Shuzou (in Japanese)
- Oliver Strand’s article in the New York Times: ‘Japan’s Pour-Over Coffee Wins Converts‘
Intro/outro: “Aguamala” by Carne Cruda
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Kupa Hokianga reviews Artisan Coffee in Fukuoka
Recently, a friend of mine took one of his colleagues to a cafe I recommended for its excellent macchiato.
The coffee arrived at their table, the ham-handed colleague managed to spill his before tasting it. My friend offered to order another, but the guest responded, “Ah, doesn’t matter; I’m more a Starbucks kind of guy.”
My heart sunk when told. I’m not sure what the moral is here, something about a horse and water.
My wife’s friend recommended I try Artisan Coffee, a 12-seat, slightly bohemian cafe in Hirao (Fukuoka). It’s off my normal route, but the sample of their beans I received suggested it was worth a visit.
Takamiya-dori is a busy road in a prosperous residential part of town. When we arrived, the small cafe, which could be described in a 1980 Vogue magazine as “shabby chic”, was empty of customers. I ordered an espresso and my wife selected a caramel latte.
While making polite conversation with friends, I watched the barista out of the corner of my eye as he calibrated the grinder setting one notch to the right before a quick test into the palm of his hand, then fresh ground a dose of dark roasted beans before effortlessly swiping the port-a-filler level; a gentle tamp and tap and a few seconds later the extraction had started. My demitasse arrived with a perfectly proportioned warmed spoon on the side.
The espresso was near faultless – the crema maintained structure, the temperature was perfect, and the caramel sweetness from the bean came through with just a hint of bitterness. The macchiato I ordered next was excellent and is now my coffee of choice.
I cannot comment on my wife’s afternoon caramel latte as that drink at that time of day goes against everything I believe in. I took her word for it when she said it tasted fantastic and the rabbit face latte art was kawaii.
Artisan Coffee is a must-do, mainly because they consistently get the coffee basics right and to a high standard and the starchy Japanese cafe culture is tossed out the window.
The barista critique and my coffee snobbery aside, if you just want nice coffee and don’t mind mismatched decor, grab your favorite magazine, turn off your phone and enjoy this small indulgence. You will not be disappointed. The cappuccinos are creamy, the macchiato is full-bodied and the barista is working on his flat white.
Food selection is limited, so don’t arrive hungry, but there’s a relaxed, informal ambiance and outdoor smoking tables. Coffee prices start at 380 yen, which is exceptional value. Surprisingly seating always seems to be available. Their primary bean is Fidalgo Bay (organic shade grown), the espresso machine is a single-head Rocket.
This article has been edited. The original version misspelled Fidalgo. This has now been corrected.
Artisan Coffee is located on Takamiya dori. If accessing from Hirao station, it’s about 5 minutes’ walk on the right as you head towards Yakuin station. Open 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., six days a week. No website.
I’d first visited this café several years ago when I’d just arrived in the country. Being a snobby ex-barista from Wellington I was disappointed to find that coffee and cafés in “cool Tokyo” were mostly chain places with automatic machines. Apartment Café was one of the places which gave me hope that Tokyo did indeed have a café culture worth getting excited about.
Apartment Café uses Illy beans, imported from Italy. Having recently visited an Illy brand café in Yurakucho I can happily report that the barista at Apartment Café can actually create something good with them!
My first coffee of the visit is a hot café latte – a distinction that needs to be pointed out in Japanese cafés. The café is busy, but not frantic, so my coffee is delivered promptly. The milk has been spun and stretched quite well, though the finished product is not as shiny as you would really like. Still, no complaints. This coffee is smooth. The shot is nicely done, too. The finish was suitably smooth, though I think it was a single shot. A double of these Illy beans might be a bit rough. The temperature of the coffee was good, too. Quite often, especially at the chain cafés, the baristas rely on a temperature gauge in the milk jug rather than their hand. The two baristas I’ve seen here at Apartment Café are using their left hands on the side of the jug and are getting good results – no boiled or burnt milk here.
The bean hopper on the grinder looks to be three quarters full, but the baristas are only grinding beans as necessary. Good. Ground beans exposed to air have a shelf life of about 5 minutes. If they’ve been sitting there for longer the cup that arrives at your table won’t be as good as it could be. Both baristas are stretching milk without too much noise, meaning the milk will be thick and smooth, not big and bubbly. One thing I have noticed though is that they are not wiping out the basket between shots. Grounds left in the basket from the previous shot can make a coffee quite bitter. However, the shots are going straight into the cups, not into a shot glass. This means that the crema is intact when the milk is poured, resulting in a better looking coffee.
I’ve got time for another coffee, so an espresso is in order. While waiting for it, I’d best mention the prices. This espresso is setting me back 500, while a latte goes for 550. Not really an Excelsior or Doutor price, but one that café patrons in Tokyo can expect if they’re after something made well. It would seem that tax isn’t included. The total is 1,102 yen.
The espresso has arrived, so let’s take a look. This is a single as well, and looks to have been quite a long pour. The crema isn’t really what you’d call great – there is a big hole in the middle. The first sip was ok, but the second starts hinting at some real bitterness. I can’t get any indication of the sweetness that a good espresso should have. After a bigger gulp towards the end, and the initial shock of that, the flavour does settle out a bit, but really it didn’t impress me as much as the latte did.
The Tokyo Apartment Café @ Harajuku – certainly worth a visit and a warming milky coffee.
The café itself has a very cool feeling to it – lots of dividing walls about the place so you feel you have your own little part of what is actually quite a big place. The music is cool, décor too. The drink menu is good, though not too extensive, and the food going past me to waiting patrons looks pretty good too. It’s easy to find, right on the corner of Omotesando-dori and Meiji-dori, or just past Softbank if you’re walking down the hill from Harajuku station.
Open 365 days a year. www.harajuku-ac.com 03-3401-4101.
Green Fantasia 1F, 1-11-11 Jingumae, Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo.