The next #KurasuPartnerRoaster is Darestore in Sendai. They started out with a concept of introducing the coffee culture they witnessed in Melbourne, where everybody enjoys a good cup of coffee at any time in their everyday life. After 10 years of preparation, Darestore opened its doors to the people in Sendai in 2017, and they have been a leading coffee roaster not just by the popularity but as a brand that takes initiative in establishing Sendai's coffee culture as a whole. We interviewed the owner, Terasawa-san to find out about their journey.
In 2009, Teresawa-san decided he wanted to open a cafe. Originally, he graduated from a vocational school of physiotherapy, and worked at an osteopathic clinic. "Whenever I had time between classes, I visited cafes. The longer the time I spent at cafes, the more I became interested in the cafe business. I had many opportunities at my work attending conferences and meeting people in higher positions, but those experiences only made me question more about what I really wanted to do with my life. Eventually, my wish to run a cafe of my own grew into something I could no longer ignore.
In that sense, I found what my heart really desires after graduating and working in a very different field- it just came a little later than usual", Terasawa-san reflects.
After quitting his job, Terasawa-san visited numerous cafes around Japan. Among many places, one cafe, Bal Musette in Sendai, stuck in his mind.
“I want to open a cafe”- he said to the owner, Kawaguchi-san. Kawaguchi-san then gave Terasawa-san many different pieces of advice, but most importantly told him to “see the world”. “Kawaguchi-san gave me a new way of looking at my journey. His advice opened my eyes to many things; he also kindly agreed to give me some training, during which I learned so much. Later I also worked at Starbucks, and at those 2 places, I gained the knowledge about coffee, learned the basics and the essentials of running a cafe, and prepared myself in terms of the mental strength required in the service industry”, he recalls.
The next step Terasawa-san took was to expand his knowledge in the food and beverage industry to include restaurants. He started a job at a French restaurant, and worked under a chef who who had previously earned a Michelin star. Working closely with a skilled chef and having an authentic culinary experience proved to be a wonderful addition to his life, Terasawa-san reflects.
He also took the opportunity to travel around Europe with Kawaguchi-san, and throughout the journey he met many people who are either well-travelled, or lived abroad. Listening to their stories made Terasawa-san’s adoration for living and working outside of Japan stronger, and when he met someone who had worked in Melbourne, Terasawa-san felt that that’s the next place he wanted to live. To save up for the working holiday, Terasawa-san worked at a pizzeria. The chef he worked under had mastered his skills in Naples, and he told Terasawa-san all about his amusing and exciting life in Italy.
Terasawa-san feels that his experiences at those restaurants, trying so many new ingredients and flavors he has never had before, contributed a lot to what he does today. “It is helping me in many occasions, including creating new dishes to put on our menu. But not only that. I now have so many different ways of expressing flavors in coffee too.”
Terasawa-san and his wife (then, girlfriend) got visas for the working holiday, and they flew to Australia. During their stay for nearly 2 years, they spent the first half traveling through Tasmania and several farms, and settled in Melbourne to work at cafes. They returned to Japan in May 2016, and in January 2017, they opened Darestore.
The Life in Melbourne
It is not uncommon for cafes in Melbourne to serve 300-500 cups of coffee every day. The busy and lively environment excited Terasawa-san, and he grew a lot as a barista. One of the great common features of cafes in Melbourne is the variety of the food menu- Darestore adopted that culture and they are serving food that includes homemade croissants, freshly cooked grilled sandwiches and home baked granola.
In Australia, a network of Japanese people living in Australia helped Terasawa-san a lot too. He got his first job at Balmains Brighton, at where the current CEO of PRANA CHAI JAPAN, Nomura-san who was also working there. After that Terasawa-san learned that Mitsuyoshi-san, who was a head barista at Addict Food & Coffee (he now runs ANY B&B+COFFEE in Nara), was looking for a barista, and joined their team. After leaving Melbourne, his journey and experiences in the food industry meant Terasawa-san’s view of the world was widened like never before, he had earned a great skillset, and had so many wonderful encounters with people- all defining who he is and what Darestore is today.
The Partnership with the Roaster, Ishiyama-san
The story of Darestore is not complete without talking about their co-founder and the roaster, Ishiyama-san. Terasawa-san met him at the cupping session frequently hosted at Bal Musette. Back then, Ishiyama-san had been working for 10 years at Nelson Coffee in Sendai, and when they opened a coffee stand at Sendai station, Ishiyama-san was put in charge, and Terasawa-san became his regular.
“I was thinking about my future cafe while I was in Melbourne, and I instantly thought of him. I know his experience, skills and work ethics, and he was very different from me in a good way. I thought he was an ideal business partner”,Terasawa-san says. Ishiyama-san was also thinking about becoming independent, and accepted the offer. They communicated over the internet between Japan and Australia, and discussed the concept of their future shop.
“In Melbourne, cafes are open from very early in the morning and people can come in pretty much whenever is convenient. Some people come with their kids before sending them to schools, some hop out of their offices for a quick coffee...people are using the cafe in many different occasions in their daily lives. I wanted to create that kind of environment in Sendai too”, Terasawa-san explains.
Ishiyama-san also wanted to make specialty coffee culture more inclusive, as he often met people getting nervous, saying “oh I don’t know much about it…”, as soon as the words “specialty coffee” are mentioned at his previous workplace. They may have different backgrounds, but the idea of creating a space that provides anyone a nice cup of coffee they can enjoy in their own way, was something they both had in mind.
When Darestore opened, there were already some individually owned, small cafes in the city. However their presence was small, and big national chains had more appeal to the people, with better locations- the small cafes were no match to them. People either have to really love coffee or already know about those cafes to visit them. Terasawa-san saw the opposite in Melbourne- small cafes are always full with people, and the big chains were only attracting busy tourists. So the challenge Terasawa-san set for himself was to establish a base for small businesses in Sendai such as himself, to gain popularity and become mainstream. To cater as many kinds of people as possible, he decided to open the cafe very early in the morning, and kept it open until 11pm at night, and also served alcohol in the evening.
“I put many things on the menu. I really liked that the cafes in Melbourne have good selection of food so that people can use the space for many different purposes, from one quick drink to a meeting over a meal. I tried to include absolutely everything I like at first”, he recalls his busy days. However, he ended up trying to do more than he was physically capable of, and after a year, he had to admit that he should realise his own limit in order to go on. From the second year, they switched the opening hours to 8-6, and gradually shifted their focus onto coffee rather than food.
What made it possible for Darestore to switch their focus on coffee was Yashiro-san’s contribution. He joined the team in May 2019 and boosted the quality of their coffee, after mastering his skill in Melbourne and Berlin for 5 years as a head barista.
Another essential figure in their team is Terasawa-san’s wife, Ayano-san, who is in charge of the food and cake department. Her childhood dream was to become a patissiere, and her cooking and baking has been attracting many repeating customers. Since Darestore switched their focus, she is tuning in her another great talent and drawing and designing their packaging, as well as being in charge of their social media channels.
The roasting machine Darestore uses is called PROASTER, made by a Korean manufacturer. Its appeal was not only its affordable price and compact size, but it was the roaster used for coffee that both Terasawa-san and Ishiyama-san enjoyed in completely different places- there was no doubt that that was their "it" machine. The principle of Darestore's roast is "to clearly express the beans' characteristics, while maintaining a good balance with a clean cup, sweetness and acidity." For the importer, they always choose to work with someone who values the relationship with the farms as well as the quality of the goods.
They carefully calibrate their roasting recipe to find the sweet spot of uniquely different beans, making sure that there will be no smoky flavors or bitterness. They only produce light roast or medium-light roast, and usually stock 4 to 5 kinds of coffee at the shop. They renew the lineup about once every 3 months, with a wide variety to make the choice more exciting for their customers. However, they have Brazilian coffee throughout the year, because they believe that Brazilian coffee often has "certain characteristics of coffee that come to people' minds when they think of 'coffee' in general", and that adds comfort and reassurance to people's experiences of drinking their coffee.
It's a place that makes you feel at home, but it also gives you exciting new encounters- we could feel the good vibe of Darestore just by listening to their coffee selection.
The Future Plans
When we asked Terasawa-san to list what makes Sendai's coffee culture unique, he replied that there is a great network between the cafes across town. A good community base is crucial for the coffee culture and its industry to thrive, and if the businesses in Sendai can work together, the sky's the limit. Terasawa-san also points out that even though there is nothing established as "a specialty coffee culture" in Sendai, he sees a bright future ahead when Darestore and other cafes are filled with people of all generations enjoying coffee in their individual ways. "Our short-term goal is to open a roastery and roast more. However, we do not wish to make just our business grow, but expanding the market in Sendai by introducing good coffee to more people. That will boost the industry, and the culture and economy in Sendai as a result. That would be the best outcome. There are many people who enjoy home brewing, so we are hosting as many workshops as possible to show people the joy of brewing specialty coffee at home", he says.
At Darestore, everyone has different strengths and talents but their eyes are looking for the same future. By delivering their beautiful coffee to everyday life in Sendai, they will surely become a more and more essential and aromatic part of the city to enrich its people's lives.