Hello everyone, it’s Ayaka.
I thought I’d share how I felt on our 5th anniversary, reflecting on my journey with Kurasu started with the Kurasu Kyoto Stand.
It turned out to be quite a long letter, but it would mean a lot to me if you could join me today to reflect on these past 5 years.
Kurasu Kyoto Stand opened its doors on August 11th, 2016, and I joined the opening team as their barista.
The time I spent here at Kurasu overlaps mostly with the Stand’s history, so I will tell you a bit of my memory during those times too.
“From Kyoto to the world- Introduce and promote Japanese coffee culture”
I was intrigued by the phrase in the job posting Yozo made to hire the opening staff for their very first cafe. And that was true- located only 5 minutes walk away from Kyoto station, surrounded by big hotels and companies, we had guests from all over the world.
It was sort of strange at first, introducing ourselves to Japanese customers as a new face in the area, while welcoming guests from overseas telling us how much they’ve been wanting to visit us. They’d say, “I finally made it, I’m so happy to be here”.
Most of our staff members had great experience as a barista either in different countries or other cafes in Japan prior to them joining the team.
We were lucky to have such wonderful talents, and we were able to nurture a welcoming place and community around it where people can simply enjoy a good cup of coffee, having no language barriers.
Having the relationship between a shop and a customer just right can be very difficult- not too close, not too far, not too casual, but not too formal. Sounds simple enough, but it’s a fine balance that’s tricky to maintain.
During these 5 years, we sent off some members and welcomed new faces too. Even so, I believe we could stay the same, but could also grow in a good way, keeping this place simple and pleasant, and serving a good cup of coffee.
I have so many memories with every one of the members, and I had such fun times with them- sometimes we argued, sometimes we laughed until we cried, and those nights that we talked until late at night with a beer in our hands…
Thankfully, we have also been blessed with the wonderful community and fun, kind regulars- they’d always ask how we are, share their stories, consult us with their relationships, give us so many interesting coffee related questions, make sure to bring something back for us whenever they travel- and simply visit to see us.
We have met so many people over the last 5 years, and even if their visit was to be once or twice, or every time they are in the area, we felt so much love from each and every one of the encounters.
At Kyoto Stand, you can find a good cup of coffee, great conversation with our staff members, and wonderful customers- it may sound almost like self praise, but this is how I feel about Kurasu and how much I love Kurasu Kyoto Stand.
Before I get too emotional, back to the shop’s history…
In the early days we weren’t roasting coffee by ourselves, but instead we were so lucky to serve coffee from so many cool roasters from all over Japan. We also invited many of them over to be a guest barista, and hosted workshops with them. There were a fair share of challenges and great encounters for serving the coffee from different roasters.
Then we went on house roasting.
We started out at a shared roaster in Osaka, a weekly train ride into the city.
A little later we bought our first roasting machine from Giesen, and set up a roastery in Fushimi Inari.
Roasting our coffee by ourselves taught us so much more about coffee, and the experience expanded our horizon in terms of our love for coffee and the sense of professionalism and responsibility on what we serve.
The best thing about roasting our own coffee is that it enables us to express what we love and what we want to express exactly as they are. I still remember the day we made our first house blend like it was yesterday- I had little clue on coffee roasting back then, but it was such a great moment nevertheless.
We renewed the blend this year and we made it even better, and house blend is still one of my best favorites.
And the time passes, entering the pandemic at the end of 2019.
Everywhere in the world has been hit hard, and we are still trying to figure out how to survive these difficult times.
Everyone’s struggling, but we can’t stop trying- we need to find what we can do to make things better.
While we have been trying to figure it out, the 5th anniversary was approaching. While we cannot have a big party inviting people, we still wanted to make it special, connecting and sharing with people around the world.
So we came up with the idea of the surprise box of the anniversary merch, including a T-shirt and special coffee beans, keeping everything a secret until the very last minute. It was an attempt to make something to be excited about and look forward to.
It was pre-order only, and even most of our staff members did not know what the design and the coffee would be. I could have a peek at the info if I wanted to, but I chose not to, and enjoy the anticipation.
The theme of this year’s design is based on our CEO, Yozo’s message:
“It takes at least 3 to 4 years for a coffee tree to bear its first fruits. We have been the same- we have been serving coffee for these years, and we are witnessing that our love for coffee and Kurasu are bearing fruits. We will keep nurturing the tree- our Kurasu- to be better, and to serve even better coffee in our coming years.
STILL BREWING AFTER 5 YEARS
STILL GROWING AFTER 5 YEARS. “
Thank you so much for all the love and support you have given us, and we are looking forward to continuing our journey with you, and have a good time together.
Stay safe, and see you soon!