The next #KurasuPartnerRoaster is HOOP in Osaka. We introduced them last in our blog post “KURASU Joins HOME, a Shared Roaster in Osaka”, HOOP runs a shared roaster which Kurasu has been a member of. Shared roaster are not well-recognized in Japan yet unlike in Australia or East Coast of the U.S.A. where they are more common, and HOOP is now taking that uniqueness even further by hosting seminars and talk events as well as roasting themselves. We interviewed Yamada-san, the roaster and one of the founders of HOOP.
The First Encounter
Yamada-san’s first step in the industry was made when she started to work at a Starbucks during her freshman year at university. “Back then, I could only handle sweet drinks full of syrup. However, I got into coffee as I learned more about it” Yamada-san recalls. One internal event held at the company changed her perception completely- it was aimed to let the employee experience the difference in flavor according to different origins. Yamada-san tasted Sumatra and Guatemala, and the difference was very clear and almost shocking, she told.
The experience made her interested in terroirs, and that once led her to start working for a wine company (now TAKAMURA Wine & Coffee Roasters) as her interest was extended to the similar nature of the beverage. However, later she decided to follow her passion for coffee and went back to Starbucks, where she brushed up her skill as a barista even further. Four years has passed, and her path crossed once again with the wine company as they were looking for a manager and a roaster for their new coffee department. The third wave of coffee had started to take over the world, and TAKAMURA’s CEO discovered the trend when he was visiting the U.S.A. to import wine, and it inspired him to introduce that culture to Japan.
Later Yamada-san also visited the U.S.A. and it left her with a great impression as well- “Everyone’s drinking coffee. Coffee was part of people’s life, and it was a great surprise to see people queueing up to get a cup of coffee often costing more than 4 dollars. A light roast coffee picked and prepared with so much care and attention was available in your daily life- that was a shock to me” Yamada-san recalls.
After accepting the offer from TAKAMURA, Yamada-san buried herself in books and how-tos of coffee roasting, picked all the coffee making equipment and machines by herself and sailed off on this brand new adventure. After two and a half years, Yamada-san had another life-changing encounter with now co-founders, Ogawa-san and Goto-san- and that’s how HOOP has started.
The Opportunity HOOP Provides to Japanese Coffee Culture
As detailed in the previous article, HOOP is a company providing space, hosting events with a theme “Co-imagine”. They provide people from every background with opportunities to share their stories, learn about each other and work together. It’s been a year since they first opened their doors back in July 2017- Yamada-san told us that they now have many more non-professional users than they were expecting when they started. “The users love the experience with us as a place like ours is still rare in Japan- it definitely taught us how large the population is who are passionate about coffee, not always necessarily working as professionals.”
Yamada-san described what the typical experience with HOOP is like:
“Firstly, we do cupping to observe the difference in flavor” Yamada-san explains. Then they explain the categorization and terminologies to describe coffee flavors using a cupping sheet. How-to and theory of roasting follow, then you are ready to roast! That covers your first appointment with HOOP. While experiencing it only once clearly won’t be enough to master the art, it is a wonderful starting point to experience roasting using a machine of professional standard.
People come in to HOOP with all kinds of preference in flavors and roast levels, which requires Yamada-san to be ready to offer advice on the full spectrum of roasting styles. “Sometimes people bring their own green beans- a variety I’ve never roasted before- that gives me a great chance to offer everything I have in my knowledge and explore it further with them” - at HOOP, it's not a one-way lecture as they also enjoy learning from their customers and that goes both ways.
“We are hoping to have more baristas come from other cafes to roast with us to become storytellers of their own coffee” Yamada-san says. One of their purposes is to share the story and culture of the people involved with coffee production and processing, and develop the story by increasing the number of people who brew the coffee adding more and more background stories. HOOP gives you a tool and the opportunity to tell stories of yours and the coffee you are passionate about- and that will boost Japanese roasting population without a doubt, HOOP will continue to be a birthplace of those unique stories untold.
Aside from picking what tastes wonderful, HOOP has another priority when purchasing green beans- they choose something that affects world positively; environmentally or economically, a choice you can make when you shop making a difference by approaching the issues the coffee industry is facing. For example, their Colombian beans are fair trade certified and Ethiopian beans are organic- HOOP is trying to create a positive spiral playing their part to help make society a better place by purchasing and roasting with a purposes.
“There are two major points I keep in mind when I roast: one is to make the most of the characteristics of the origin, and the other is to simply focus on sweetness and pleasant mouthfeel. I’m aiming to make a coffee that is easy to drink, a cup of coffee that keeps you company everyday” Yamada-san explains. Being warm, welcoming and easygoing, HOOP’s coffee embodies their philosophy.
HOOP also offers a fun and unique service- you can design your own blend as a gift to someone according to their personality. HOOP analyzed a variety of flavors of coffee from many different origins, and related those characteristics to traits and personalities. Bright, elegant, smooth- they offer a great opportunity to introduce and learn about specialty coffee’s wonderfully unique features in a fun, relaxed and personal way.
“We want to be a catalyst rather than growing as a strong brand ourselves” Yamada-san explains. HOOP often hosts seminars, cupping sessions and talk events to spread the story and educate people more about coffee farming and the environment the coffee farming industry is in.
HOOP attracts, connects and bonds people and has been functioning as a platform where people can gather and grow together. They have also been interested in Cuba as the coffee farming industry is growing there, aiming to be involved in the process of coffee production itself to gain further insight and influence in the industry.
The shared roaster in the East Coast of the U.S.A. that HOOP’s founders visited was realizing a new form of cooperation and co-creation - what they witnessed there has left a strong influence on their vision. Coffee culture in Osaka still has some way to go to share the sense of forming a big community who share their skills to grow together. With their vision in mind, HOOP will definitely be a leading roaster and a catalyst to push the community forward.