The next #KurasuPartnerRoaster is AKEKURE BEANS from Kobe, Hyogo. The cafe and the roastery was opened 3 years ago, and it has grown to be the local families’ favorite. We interviewed the owner, Tamura-san about his journey.
“I used to be a stage actor”, Tamura-san said. Even since he was at school, performing arts have been his fascination. After the graduation he moved to Tokyo to pursue his dream, and made a contract with an agency. Between his busy schedule filled with lessons and auditions, he often visited cafes for meetings and read-throughs. At first the nearest cafe of an international chain was his go-to place, but after a while the restlessness of the atmosphere of the busy cafe started to wear him out. His profession was already demanding as it was- being an actor requires a constant self-reflection and self-exploration, and on top of that, he was struggling with the uncertainty of his future career.
Tamura-san decided to look for more quiet environment, and started visiting individually owned kissatens. There, a “master” of the place welcomes him, pours a carefully brewed cup of coffee for Tamura-san to relax. There were also times when Tamura-san would enjoy having a little conversation with the master, and everything about that place comforted him. “Then I noticed that the precision of the technique to offer not only a good coffee but the passion to create that whole environment had so much in common with a process of creating a play. How we create a whole different world inside of a room called theater works with the same principle as how they were running their cafes”, Tamura-san recalls.
By the time Tamura-san turned 30, he started to think about having a family and settle down. That gave him a moment to face the fact that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a stage to express themselves. However, theater is not the only place to be creative and expressive- there are so much more to the world, and Tamura-san realized that he has already been to one of the other great environments to be creative- the cafes.
Whenever he had a great day, bad day, being tired or depressed, or when he simply wanted to focus on his work, he visited the cafe and it made him feel better. That was because the atmosphere and people creating that space embraced anybody who walked in, and offered a good cup of coffee. Tamura-san decided to create such environment of his own, and moved back to Kobe to open a cafe.
Encounters with His Masters
Since Tamura-san decided to change his path, his life was filled by studying after studying. The preparation was more demanding as he decided to roast his own coffee. His ideal roast was something that tells the roaster’s personality- something tells the story about the coffee itself and the journey of the roaster.
His first encounter of such coffee was made at VOICE OF COFFEE in Kobe. “I tried their Yemeni coffee, and the sweetness it had was amazing. I could tell by the taste how passionate and open-minded the roaster is, and he was exactly as I was imagining. He taught me everything he knew, and he has been my teacher ever since”, he smiles. Tamura-san brings his roast practiced at Fuji Koki’s training session back to VOICE OF COFFEE to cup, and with the feedback he trained himself more at home using pans and pots.
Later on at an event called “Coffee and Films” hosted at Kobe Harborland, Tamura-san met another master of his journey. Mr.Matsumoto from Matsumoto Coffee, who imports green beans, sells roasted coffee and all kinds of roasting machines and equipment. Back then, Tamura-san was struggling to find a good importer, and after finding out that Mr.Matsumoto and his company have a very similar values and principles, treating people right throughout the process of production and consumption of coffee, Tamura-san reached out to Mr.Matsumoto. He agreed to give Tamura-san a thorough training on coffee roasting and cupping, and since then, Tamura-san has been working closely with Mr.Matsumoto.
A Different Stage, Same Dream
After 4 years of preparation, AKEKURE BEANS finally opened its door in Kobe.
“I studied a lot about specialty coffee with Matsumoto-san, and I loved how each of them has a great story. I heard so many fascinating stories from MATSUMOTO COFFEE whenever they came back from farms. I believe that having a good story behind coffee and roasting them with a good understanding of it are essential, and that is the same in acting. When you say a line, it should not just be about how you say it- you need a good story behind your character, and the line should be an organic product of it, coming out of you naturally. Coffee roasting is the same. Some clever techniques can never beat the deep understanding of the story each coffee has”, Tamura-san says.
“When I asked myself, ‘what can I achieve through this’, I thought that I wanted to introduce the coffee I love to the area with little presence of coffee culture. So I named the cafe Ake (dawn) Kure (dusk, spells the same as everyday life), imagining something like lighting a candle or bringing coffee to people’s life”, Tamura-san explains.
3 years have passed, and AKEKURE BEANS are always full of laughter of children and families. Tamura-san recalls that he felt that he had settled into the town as he sees little children of his regular customers have all grown up. He learned that running a business here means a lot more than maintaining the success, but building up the time he spend with those people and what they experience through the interaction.
AKEKURE BEANS’ Roast
AKEKURE BEANS offers 5 blends and 7 single origins. Each blend is made and named based on Tamura-san’s inspiration from flavors and the ideal time for each coffee to be consumed at. “I think what we call a medium roast is a lot closer to light roast compared to other roasters’ medium roast. I am aiming to expand the variety of light roast we offer, while synchronizing with the taste our customers develop. I like my coffee to be very mild and drinkable, rather than eccentric and different. I want to roast a coffee that fits into people’s daily lives. Several younger customers tend to buy light roast, but most of our customers prefer medium and darker roast. I still see people expressing a negative idea about ‘sour’ coffee. However, more and more people started to show interest in lighter roast, and I definitely see the change is happening”, he explains.
Tamura-san roastes with Fuji Royal’s semi blast machine, and his motto is to minimize the unnecessary calories applied to the beans to achieve the mild flavor. “I will continue to learn from many other coffee roasters”, he smiles.
Tamura-san explains that he is intended to occasionally attend events, while prioritizing to keep the cafe open to cater the local customers’ everyday life. “The only drawback to stay in business in one place is that I try too hard to find the answer to my question in a very limited environment, and end up becoming inflexible. Attending events are very good opportunity to make me become more objective and realize many new things”, he says.
Tamura-san also expressed a desire to visit farms. He believes that by seeing the farms with his own eyes, he will be able to bring back so much more than a text printed on a coffee package. Many of his customers experienced specialty coffee for the first time through AKEKURE BEANS. Tamura-san feels that it is his mission to encourage them to explore more about coffee and how to enjoy it as a part of their lives. AKEKURE BEANS will continue to be acting as a place for the people in town to experience something a little special to take home.