The next #KurasuPartnerRoaster is Q.O.L. COFFEE from Nagoya. The cafe/roastery stands by the main street, with an eye-catching blue exterior and large windows letting in plenty of sunshine into the shop. The spacious upstairs is often rented out for events such as stage shows and live music. The name stands for "Quality of Life", and it was named with the hope of providing rich experiences and an atmosphere that brings quality to people's lives. We interviewed the owner, Shima-san.
His path with coffee
Nagoya is famous for its "Mo-nin-gu" (morning) culture, that people go to cafes to have breakfast- usually toast with a cup of coffee. Being born and bred in Nagoya, Shima-san has been very familiar with that culture since he was a little boy. "My parents often took me with them to kissatens. I loved the atmosphere, and I loved drinking coffee with milk. I remember dreaming of running a shop like that", Shima-san recalls.
After dedicating his teenage time to basketball, Shima-san graduated from high school, and his childhood dream was still in his heart. He studied at a cooking school to gain skills related to food and beverage, and at the age of 22, Shima-san joined a coffee company in Nagoya to learn more about coffee at a professional level. That's where he had his first encounter with specialty coffee, and he used this opportunity to become acquainted with specialty coffee long before the third wave become popular in Japan.
Shima-san then worked in the industry for 9 years, and mastered pourover, espresso and coffee roasting. Gradually, his desire to learn more about coffee led his mind outside of Japan- "I wanted to know why coffee is making a new trend world-wide, and what it is like in other countries. It seemed that this trend is already at its peak in the U.S., so Melbourne looked more interesting to me as the culture was thriving and continuing to grow" , Shima-san explains. "Why do people drink coffee?", "What does coffee mean to people?"- Shima-san wished to grasp the sense of how the coffee fitted into people's lives, and experience the local point of view first-hand, so he moved to Melbourne. During his stay, he worked as a barista and witnessed the highly competitive nature of the industry. "At any point, a barista with more skill and greater passion could walk into the cafe and take my place. The pressure hit me, and that made me think why I work and what I work for, and how I want to work- my time in Melbourne developed me as a person as well as a professional", Shima-san recalls.
It is clear that the 6 month Shima-san spent in Melbourne had a big impact on his life, and it is also during this time when the concept of Q.O.L. COFFEE started to form in his mind. "By visiting a place that had already surpassed my goals, and continuing to move even further forward, I could see that the path I had chosen was right. Through my experience in Melbourne, I could give my dream a shape with a clear vision of what I wanted", Shima-san looks back.
The place that showcases quality of life
When he returned from Melbourne, Shima-san saw that Japan was also filled with cafes and baristas fighting over positions. It made his vision of making his shop something unique even stronger, Shima-san explains. "The cafe also functions as a place that sets trends and nurtures a culture. This place is a cafe, a roastery, a gallery, and so much more- this is somewhere that an aspiring artist can make their very first step, as well as somewhere that people casually drop by for a cup of coffee and still feel something special" Shima-san tells us. "A place that no one ever gets bored"; by providing opportunities for people to engage with high quality coffee, art and all kinds of new experiences, Q.O.L. COFFEE adds quality to people's lives.
The coffee culture in Nagoya
It's been nearly 2 years since Shima-san opened the cafe in Nagoya. The culture that prefers dark roast is still deep-rooted, and Shima-san feels that specialty coffee still has a long way to go before it will be embraced by the locals. The cafe often has customers looking for dark roast- and while Shima-san never intends to deny the good things about dark roast, and he wants his customers to enjoy coffee in their own individual way, he won't stop trying to explain his kind of coffee and asking them to just try it out. While it has taken time, he has recently started to see positive changes in the responses, he says. "Many have said that they have never had such a clean and easy-to-drink cup, and many senior customers who have been enjoying dark roast for decades becoming familiar with specialty coffee and now looking forward to trying out new flavors. I'm sure this will be the case for many more people in the future", Shima-san smiles.
Q.O.L. COFFEE's roast
Q.O.L. COFFEE uses Lucky Coffee Machine's 4kg roaster. Shima-san had it customized and turned it into a semi-blast roaster. During his career, Shima-san worked with roasters such as Fuji Royal and Loring Smart Roaster, but he feels the current machine suits his style the best allowing him to express the ideal flavor. Shima-san roasts to make the most out of the natural characteristics of the beans- he does not tend to categorizes his roast such as light or dark, but finds the most-suited roasting level depending of the beans. Usually, Shima-san tries roasting first, then the entire team cup and discuss, then Shima-san gives it a finishing touch.
At Q.O.L. COFFEE, they usually have 7 single origins available, all quite different from each other for their customers to enjoy. Customers can also choose pourover brewed with KINTO dripper or Aeropress, again to experience the difference different coffee and different brewing method can make.
To the next era of Nagoya
Establishing a community and growing it through coffee is Shima-san's goal. He is aiming to create something special only that place on earth can achieve, and have everyone connected through the experience he provides. He wishes to enrich people's lives through coffee he roasts, his cafe and what the place can offer and nurture. Shima-san's goal is to open a new chapter of this long-loved coffee culture in Nagoya and to create a new path to its future.