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Mame Pole Pole (Okinawa) : 2023 July #KurasuPartnerRoaster

Mame Pole Pole (pronounced as “mah-meh po-leh po-leh”) in Okinawa is this month’s #KurasuPartnerRoaster. “Pole Pole”in the name was taken from Swahili proverb, which translates “slowly, slowly.” It is often said that time passes more slowly in Okinawa compared to the mainland Japan, and that chilled, laid-back mindset of life in Okinawa is lovingly called “Uchinaa-time”, roughly translates as “Okinawan time”, referring to Okinawa’s unique sense of time.

The shop’s name and the calm presence of the owner, Nakamura-san, may make it difficult to notice at first, but as a skilled roaster who won second prize at 2018 World Coffee Roasting Championship in Rimini, Italy, Nakamura-san is a leading figure in Okinawa’s coffee scene always full of passion and hunger for improvement.

Fuelled by his desire to learn more about coffee, Nakamura-san took on the challenge of the global competition. Lack of experience and knowledge combined with limited access to information stopped his first attempt at qualifying. However, as Nakamura-san continued to try every year, he gradually made friends/rivals with shared passion, and one by one they began to show positive results in competitions, followed by Nakamura-san who finally won the Japanese championship then stepped up to be one of the best in the world.

Winning the second prize left Nakamura-san with both joy and frustration- but when he asks himself why he took on the challenge in the first place, it was purely about “becoming able to serve better coffee, therefore waiting to try harder.” For him, the true sense of achievement can only be earned by just continuing to grow better.

Okinawa’s coffee scene has been attracting a lot of attention for the last few years- Okinawa is one of the very few areas of Japan that can grow coffee naturally, and there have been more and more people joining the coffee farming business. Okinawa embraces multiple cultures and values, and that is reflected in the diverse nature of its coffee scene. In Okinawa, all the roasting levels are equally enjoyed- it just needs to taste good. Okinawa is a great place to experience the full spectrum of what a coffee culture can be.

Nakamura-san told us that his desire to pursue even better coffee will never cease to exist. He is looking forward to his next challenge, both as a player himself but as a mentor for the next generation. When he started his journey, the world seemed so far away- but as he gathered up the courage and stepped forward, the world slowly became a level playing field. “Be courageous, keep trying and you’ll find there is an opportunity for all the people who work in the world of coffee- enjoy, and take it slow” Nakamura-san smiled.