Kurasu’s Meet Your Barista series will introduce our baristas who make Kurasu special. We will introduce them one by one —you may find something in common with them, or discover something new!
What brought you to the coffee industry, and how did you become a barista?
It all started back when I was a university student- I was working at a cafe, and my old friends would pop by whenever they were visiting their home town. I loved welcoming them, and I started to think about opening a cafe in the future.
To gain more knowledge about coffee, to make it my profession, I visited various kissatens and roasters, researched coffee shops in Japan and outside of Japan online, purchased their beans as much as I could. As I tried out those coffees, I found myself getting more fascinated by coffee itself rather than running a cafe. Coffee started to mean more to me than just a future career path, and what was driving me back then was a pure curiosity, such as wanting to use an espresso machine, and the excitement I felt in the process of coffee brewing. I thought I should explore a lot more, so I joined the team at Ogawa Coffee.
What made you interested in Kurasu?
I joined Kurasu because I wanted to be involved in the coffee roasting process. After a year of working for Ogawa Coffee, I was thinking of a way to be a “super ‘coffee’ man” and not just a regular barista, and to do so, I needed to up my game. Setting a goal to either get a job at legendary cafes overseas or find a position for a roaster, I kept myself busy looking for job opportunities including working holidays.
One day, Ayaka contacted me to see if I was interested in becoming their roaster with their new Giesen machine. It was such an amazing opportunity for me, establishing their house roast from scratch, and I just had to take it.
What is Kurasu’s strength? What makes Kurasu unique?
“Balance.” I believe that our foremost duty is to create a future where good cups of coffee are chosen by as many people as possible, and for us to lead them towards that future. What I like about Kurasu is that we are making progress on that path but not by pushing people too hard. As a consumer myself, I like how stress-free the communication between customers and the shop and how comfortable the environment is.
What kind of coffee do you personally drink often?
I drink filtered coffee most of the time. I must have been drinking other types of coffee like latte or cappuccino and just not remembering it, but I can’t even remember the last time I had anything else other than black coffee. That’s how often I choose black/filtered coffee.
I’m not a big fan of milk because I had a bad experience with it at school lunches when I was a kid.
For single origin, ostensibly I say I like Colombia and Honduras because it sounds more professional, but I secretly like washed Ethiopian too.
What type of coffee do you enjoy making?
Latte and cappuccino.
Ideally I strive for consistent results, but I particularly love it when the milk steaming goes great, and the milk I steamed is so perfect that I feel like I can make any latte art- not that I consider myself an elite latte artist!
What is the most important thing for you when you prepare drinks?
I try to keep the process as clean as I can.
It’s like how your kitchen will get messier the less familiar you are with the recipe that you are attempting- since making coffee is my job, I feel I should always be able to keep the process quick and clean when I serve.
Other than Kurasu, please share your favourite cafes in a) Kyoto, b) Japan and c) Outside of Japan.
I wouldn’t have become this obsessed with coffee if this place did not exist in my neighborhood.
My safe house I escape to whenever I have doubts in my life
I don’t get to visit them very often, but to me, they are the best in the world.
I’ve never been there before, but I admire them for being able to attract people from all over the world following their dreams.
Where would you recommend for people visiting Kyoto?
I bet people who would visit Kyoto for sightseeing know a lot more about those places than I do, but the area where my parents live is quiet and peaceful. Going further North, there’s a place called Ohara famous for nature and you can eat an egg on rice with a fresh egg straight from farms. Highly recommended.
Do you have something you would like to try at Kurasu? Do you have any future goal outside of Kurasu?
Professionally, I want to improve the quality of the coffee I roast and serve at least every year. If my work makes people feel that the coffee they enjoy at Kurasu is better than that of last year, and if I do that for 10 years or so we would have gone quite close to the best in the world. It would be great then if that can be rewarded by a win at a notable championship.
Personally, I will travel around the world trying out different food, maybe!