The next #kurasucoffee subscription roaster is AND COFFEE ROASTERS in Kumamoto. We interviewed the owner/roaster, Yamane-san.
How it Started
Yamane-san had his encounter with coffee when he was 19. He was studying in New York, and through his roommate who was a coffee enthusiast, Yamane-san himself found himself falling in love with coffee. After returning to Japan, Yamane-san looked for a job in coffee industry and knocked on many cafes and roasters’ doors. However, he couldn’t find the right flavor that had captured him in New York.
So instead Yamane-san started his career at a restaurant as a chef while learning about coffee on his own. He toured around many places for market research - San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Melbourne and Sydney- visiting many third wave styled cafes to find the flavors he liked and hoped to produce with his own hands.
Yamane-san and Kumamoto’s Coffee Scene
As Yamane-san was originally from Tokyo- the coffee scene there was already filled with his peers and friends. Such an environment made Yamane-san want to establish a culture from scratch in a place where third wave coffee would be new rather than jumping into the industry and fight with his friends over a small slice of pie. In 2011, Yamane-san moved to Kumamoto, his wife’s hometown. There he discovered a place that was small, with trams running in the street, and warm and welcoming people reminded him of Melbourne, and he instantly knew that this was the place. Back then, there was no cafes that served specialty coffee, and what is even more challenging, Kumamoto was ranked the lowest in Japan for the amount of coffee consumed.
“People in Kumamoto live very differently from those in Tokyo. People are rarely in rush”, Yamane-san explains. In Tokyo, it is common to see people rushing into a cafe to get a cup of coffee and rushing out holding a paper cup, or people having quick meetings over a cup of coffee. Although in Kumamoto, time passes a little bit more slowly, and people rarely have meetings outside of their offices. However, Yamane-san feels that people in Kumamoto have gradually started to accept and love specialty coffee and coffee culture itself. Today, many people visit him to enjoy his light roast- some even used to dislike coffee but light roast changed their view completely and now they are in love. Yamane-san says that he feels blessed to be able to create the opportunities this way.
In 2016, they opened AND COFFEE BREWERS, which is a branch that focuses on brewing processes. They introduce various brewing options, methods, recipes and how different kinds of beans can make differences to the flavor. At the end of the March this year, they are planning to open their first Tokyo branch in Hibiya, and are looking into opening one in Fukuoka as well. While it seems that they are rapidly growing out of Kumamoto, Yamane-san is very eager to educate and train people in Kumamoto to produce more local baristas. “More than half of my staffs are from outside of Kumamoto. I want to promote the value and social status of barista as a profession and prompt more people to be one” Yamane-san says, wishing to nurture the seed of coffee culture he planted which, while still small, is definitely growing.
AND COFFEE ROASTERS’ Roast
Recently, Kurasu’s staff have been enthusiastically gossiping about changes they'd noticed in the flavors that AND COFFEE ROASTERS creates. It turned out that they have changed their roaster- they originally used a Fuji Royal 3kg, and they were focusing on focusing on developing the lightest roast expressing the lively and bright acidity making the most of the roaster’s thin roasting chamber wall that quickly heats up and cools down. However, they have recently change their roaster to Probat 5kg, that has a quite thick roasting chamber wall which excels at maintaining heat- as a result, they changed their roasting style to express more sweetness by roasting slowly.
Yamane-san purchases green beans from 4 different suppliers- he would go to Tokyo for cupping, often limiting his choice to one producing country. Following the significant change to their roasting process, AND COFFEE ROASTERS have brushed it up even more, creating their signature clean cup with bright acidity that expresses unique characteristics of origins.
What Coffee Means to Yamane-san
At the end of the interview, we asked Yamane-san, “what is your idea of a good cup of coffee?”, and he gave us an unexpected answer- he said, “a coffee that you don’t even notice you’ve finished”. Every single coffee AND COFFEE ROASTERS serves are picked by Yamane-san followed by a thorough cupping hunting for every nuance of flavor, acidity and sweetness. Yamane-san told us that sometimes he even gets goosebumps when discovering a new coffee. However, for Yamane-san, he doesn't see coffee as an exotic drink, it's still something that exists in a daily routine.
“The word ‘coffee’ is a very general term, like ‘music’. Within that term, there are countless genres such as jazz, pop and rock. Coffee is just like that, and when people say ‘coffee’, what it means may just be ‘a black, bitter drink’, while some may think of a completely different thing. I want to help people getting to know as many as possible and help to enrich the definition of ‘coffee’ for as many people as I can” Yamane-san told us.
“Well, I want people to just enjoy, without thinking too much”, Yamane-san finished his sentence rather casually, as though he was trying to hide his passion- that actually made us feel his love for coffee even more strongly. Yamane-san has always been pursuing his ideal flavor without falling for what was already there for him in Japan. He loves and believes in specialty coffee so much that he wants it not to be special, not temporary, but to be something that warms up and enriches people’s everyday life.