Today we are going to interview our roaster at Kurasu, Kosuke!
So, what's it like to be a roaster? how does a day of roaster goes? Why did he choose to be a roaster, not a barista? We asked him a tons of questions to find out more about him and about the part we cannot really share with our customers at the cafe.
We sat down with Kosuke to do a casual interview, but it turned into a very intriguing and long chat- this is the first part of 3-part series, and we will focus on Kosuke's backstory of how he became a roaster.
Get yourself a cup of coffee, and enjoy!
"Please tell us about yourself. What are your favorite coffee shops?"
・Akatsuki Coffee (Kyoto)
・Aoma Coffee (Osaka)
・COFFEE COUNTY (Fukuoka)
I love these three, and I find Aoma Coffee and COFFEE COUNTY have a particularly good balance in their selection as well.
Their coffee is not too "edgy" and not alienating people who are new to light roast, but expressive enough to communicate the good things about specialty coffee.
This is something I only noticed after my experience as a roaster- so I would say this is my latest list of favorite coffee shop based on the understanding and the view point of a coffee roaster.
"When and how did you start liking coffee?"
I first noticed that I like my coffee black is when I was a college student, travelling around South East Asian countries.
Anywhere I went I could find McDonald's or Starbucks, so whenever I felt tired and wasn't up for a new thing I visited them.
I'd order a cup of regular black coffee because that's always the cheapest option. But in Thailand, coffee was always served with a lot of milk and sugar. They told me that they don't have just black coffee.
At first I thought I ordered a regular black coffee, and didn't realize until I had a sip- what I tasted was so different from what my brain was expecting to taste, and that made me almost panic. Strangely, that event made me appreciate the option of being able to drink coffee black.
ーーーInteresting! That must have been a "culture shock" moment for you.
By the way, Kosuke said he could never succeeded in finding a coffee that was not sweet, throughout his time in Thailand.
"When did you learn about specialty coffee? What brought you into the coffee industry?"
When I was a student, I didn't know a thing about coffee. My only relationship with coffee was the fact that I was working as a part-timer at a cafe in a bookshop.
But when I thought about my career path, coffee was one of the things that came to my mind as something I feel familiar with. I still didn't know much about light roast and those kind of things. So I thought, why don't I learn a bit about coffee, and googled "Kyoto coffee recommendations" etc, and started visiting famous kissatens popular with tourists.
Looking back, I couldn't tell differences in flavors, and I was drinking bitter coffee, and convincing myself that that must be what a good coffee tastes like because it's served as such famous places.
After a while, when I was 20 or so, I came acrossWEEKENDERS COFFEE, and that's when I encountered specialty coffee and I loved it.
I still didn't have much aspirations about my future- I didn't really know what I wanted to do. But what I did know was what I did not want to do, or what I don't think is for me.
I'm not really a people person, and I simply couldn't picture myself wearing suits, commuting to the office every day.
I prefer to work on something on my own in a quiet environment, so I started to look for the options that comes with that type of working environment.
3 professions that seemed cool for me werea barista, a textile designer, and a chocolatier.
Amongst those 3, barista was the most familiar option, and that's why I pursued a job as a barista first.
"A chocolatier? You mean, with chocolate? We didn't know you were considering that."
Yep. Chocolatier made to my list because - other than the fact that I love chocolate, obviously-I felt that one of my strength is to work on and control something very nuanced and delicate.
When I heard that only 0.1°C can make a difference in chocolate, I found that kind of job fascinating. So it didn't have to be coffee.
"How did you learn about coffee roasting?"
Kurasu is where I started my career as a roaster.
I already had a very established image of my ideal coffee, and it has been staying the same until today.
It started as trials and errors, and I gradually made my way to the ideal.
After all of those struggle I could finally come to terms with the notion of"textbook is right".
Even though I often find the ambiguity of definitions frustrating, textbooks introduces many great theories of dos and don'ts. I didn't start with studying with those books, and I was exploring all by myself.
Then I finally established some ideas of how I like doing things and working theories, they turned out to be already there in textbooks. That was a strange and interesting finding.
When Kurasu first started roasting our own coffee, Yozo invited his friend, Pok-san from Thailand to teach us mainly how to use our roasting machine.
He trained us for 4 days, and even though I had virtually no knowledge and couldn't understand much of what he was teaching me, I somehow already had some disagreements with his theories. Just like a hunch. So after the training I jumped right into trying out my theories, no rules, just tried whatever I wanted.
It's been 3 years since then, and I remembered that Pok-san was also on his 3rd year of roasting when he came to Japan for us. I can imagine how difficult it was also for him, suddenly coming to Kyoto, in a completely different environment and conditions to Bangkok, and having to train us with a completely new machine (even with the same models, roasting machines perform very differently depending on the environment they are in. They are such delicate things.) I can imagine that only now, standing at a similar place to where he was then.
If I were him I wouldn't know much about what to do, and would only be able to share some very basic stuff.
We hope you enjoyed the part one of Interview with Kosuke: Our Roaster.
In this part we discovered how he became interested in coffee, that he could have been a chocolatier, and so many new things about him. In the next part, we will ask him about how his job as a roaster is, and his love for coffee roasting.
See you next time!
สวัสดี sawat di kha (good bye)