The next roaster Kurasu Coffee Subscription introduces is WEEKENDERS COFFEE in Kyoto.
Overlooking an ordinary parking lot, there is a dramatic shift of atmosphere where the newly opened coffee bar, WEEKENDERS COFFEE Tominokoji stands. Renovated from an old Machiya style architecture, the building is a charming integration of both a traditional and a modern interpretation of “Wa”, Japanese style. At this very calm but welcoming space with mellow jazz, the roaster/owner Kaneko-san shared his story with us.
Kaneko-san moved to Kyoto to go to college, and that’s when he first discovered the rich coffee culture of Kyoto. It was still the early days for Espresso in Japan, and Kaneko-san had his first experience with espresso machines like FMI and La Cimbali at the café where he got his first coffee job 20 years ago.
WEEKENDERS COFFEE was first established in 2005, with the purpose of introducing more diverse espresso to Japan. The café had seating for 30 with a good variety of food served until late at night. The coffee used at the café was from Café Rosso in Shimane, produced by 2005 WBC 2nd prize winner, Hiroyuki Kadowaki.
The business was doing well, but Kaneko-san has started to feel that his customers were unable to appreciate his coffee enough, being crowded by too many other options on the menu.
Around then, Kaneko-san came across coffee from outside of Japan, such as the coffee by Tim Wendelboe and Stumptown, and he was intrigued by their light roast method and its distinctive sweetness, which was very different from a dark roast deeply rooted in Kyoto’s coffee culture. Being mesmerized by the infinite possibility of the path just opened up in front of him, Kaneko-san started to ask himself; what kind of coffee do I really want?
After a long journey of contemplation and experimentation, Kaneko-san came to the conclusion, that he wanted to not only roast dark, but make the most of the sweetness and flavour of the light roast. With his vision now realised, Kaneko-san started his own roaster in 2011, while gradually focusing the café’s menu on coffee.
Closing up the café for 3 months, Kaneko-san tirelessly pursued his ideal roasting with Probat 5kg. As WEEKENDERS COFFEE’s signature product was dark roast espresso, Kaneko-san kept its character but took the dark roast to the next level, while discovering the sweetness of the light roast rather than the sourness.
Kaneko-san feels that it is difficult to change people’s preference overnight, and the light roast is still something very different and new to Kyoto. Many roasters from Kyoto are thriving with dark roast. Although it sometimes feels like an endless journey, Kaneko-san is not planning to stop what he is doing. “My goal is not set in Kyoto, nor in WBC, but in the world” he says, now providing his own roast to over 50 cafes all over Japan. In 2014, WEEKENDERS COFFEE held a successful event with Kojima-san of Fulgen, inviting Mr. Tim Wendelboe which more than 100 people attended.
"Kyoto’s café culture is now facing a change of generation, but I’m not going to deny the tradition. We’re both creating our own different values” says Kaneko-san, who also showing his concern with the new generation. Along with the rapid growth of the new style and market, the relationship between cafes and customers or working environment and entitlement of barista need to be taken more seriously and matured.
At the roaster in Mototanaka, Kaneko-san still roasts his own beans 6 days a week, and delivers them by bike to wherever possible. His ride is not about to end.