Kurasu’s Meet Your Barista series will introduce our baristas who make Kurasu Kyoto special. We will introduce them one by one —you may find something in common with them, or discover something new!
1. What brought you to the coffee industry, and how did you become a barista?
It started out quite simply- I got into a university, and I was looking for a part time job. There was a Starbucks on the way to the university from my home, so I got a job there. I knew nothing about coffee until then, but I was inspired by the passion of my trainee who told me all about coffee. I worked for Starbucks for several years, and as I worked with many rules and manuals, I started to wonder if there are other ways I could pursue to make the customers happier in my own way. So I learned more about coffee beyond what I was serving at Starbucks, and I learned how to do latte art. That made my eyes open to a broader world, and I decided to work in more open and flexible environment just like Kurasu. After working as a barista at several cafes, I joined the Kurasu team.
2. What made you interested in Kurasu?
I visited Kurasu soon after they opened the café, and I was blown away by the sweetness of the coffee they served. That made me want to work with them, and after about a year or so, Ozaki-san, a head barista at the café I was working then, was invited to Kurasu as a guest barista. I was going to ask if I can come along and help, and on the next day I saw Kurasu posting “we’re hiring!” on the social media- I saw that as a calling.
3. What is Kurasu’s strength? What makes Kurasu unique?
I can’t just pick one, there are so many of them! I guess the best thing I like about Kurasu is its flexibility and inclusiveness. Every day, we welcome all kinds of people including tourists from abroad, people from far away and from the local area, coffee enthusiasts, commuters dripping by, sometimes a college student sneaking out of their lectures. Each one of them has their own thing about Kurasu they like, and they enjoy spending time with us in their own way. I just love seeing that. We do have our core value and we are always very serious about coffee, but I feel so happy that people love not only that side of us but many other aspects.
4. What kind of coffee do you personally drink often?
Generally, I like a mild and tender coffee or unique flavour that develops as I drink, rather than the one with a strong first impression. Recently I was blown away by a coffee with Yellow Honey process produced in Costa Rica- it tasted just like Sakura mochi!
5. What type of coffee do you enjoy making?
I like making pourovers. I enjoy the process of adjusting the grind, amount of coffee, temperature and choose different drippers all according to the coffee I’m brewing. I love tweaking recipes and how consistent the results can be- it excites me a lot.
6. What is the most important thing for you when you prepare drinks?
I always make sure to be calm and clean in the process, no matter how busy it gets. I believe that those two elements are crucial to make a cup of coffee truly enjoyable. I would change how fast I move according to the occasions of course, but I try to slow down a bit at the beginning and at the end so that the entire process looks calm. When I’m juggling multiple tasks under a lot pf pressure, I make sure it doesn’t show and I won’t let it affect the coffee in front of me.
7. Other than Kurasu, please share your favourite cafes in a) Kyoto, b) Japan and c) Outside of Japan.
・wife and husband (Kyoto)
・Single O Japan (Tokyo)
・Artificer Specialty Coffee Bar & Roastery (Sydney, Australia)
8. Where would you recommend for people visiting Kyoto?
I recommend Kenninji Temple. You can’t miss temples when you come to Kyoto! I love how open and calm the atmosphere there is- I can easily spend hours without getting board at all. You can enjoy visiting there in rain as well. It’s my favorite spot in Kyoto.
9. Do you have something you would like to try at Kurasu? Do you have any future goal outside of Kurasu?
I would love to meet more people and get to know many different perspectives and views on coffee. I also want to create more chances for people who are interested in coffee and help them joining the industry, through workshop and events. Hosting a discussion group for aspiring baristas preparing for championships would be also interesting- each of us could brew and taste, comment on it and making reports out of it could be great.
My big goal is to travel around the world with coffee. I want to build connections between Japan and world’s great coffee shops to exchange the coffee culture and introduce wonderful coffee from the world to Japan and help people falling in love with coffee even more!