The next #kurasucoffee subscription featuring roaster is Saredo Coffee in Fukuoka. The owner/ roaster, Gondo-san shared his story with us.
１．How did you join the coffee industry?
My career in the industry started at Starbucks. I liked their atmosphere, and I worked for them for 10 years. Before that, I used to drink coffee with sugar and cream, but my interest in coffee grew as I got to know more about it through my job. I studied a lot about coffee to improve my advice to customers who consulted me when choosing their beans to help them find their perfect match. I also had an opportunity to attend several internal trials and competitions, which led to me being promoted to wear the black apron and won the 3rd prize at Tokai-area competition. I spent the first 3 years in my local town, Fukuoka, before being transferred to Nagoya. It was relatively easy to access to many different types of roast in Nagoya, including light roast, and that environment helped me to explore my taste and knowledge about coffee more. I often bought beans from Shimizu Coffee and Ono Coffee.
One day at work, after a customer asked me for something that was not bitter, I realised many people had been asking me for a similar thing, and that was the time when I felt the restrictions of the range Starbucks was offering at the time, and decided to start my own roastery, Saredo Coffee.
２．When did you start to think about having a shop on your own?
I started to think about it in my 7th year at Starbucks. I spent the next 3 years planning, saving and attending seminars to learn how to roast. But - of course - I didn't get what you would call the real experience and training of the roasting on-the-go with my machine until after the shop opened. To begin with, every day was trial and error--I tend to jump into an almost impossible challenges!
３．So you are from Fukuoka, Gondo-san. Was Fukuoka the first choice for your cafe?
Yes, I’m from this area of Fukuoka, and I wanted to open my shop in Fukuoka. I know the area very well, and it’s easy to commute.
４．Why did you choose Giesen as your roaster?
I was planning to get Diedrich first, but then got to know Giesen’s Japanese distributor, Northern Commercial. No one around me was roasting with Giesen and that was a challenge, but I thought it could be interesting and part of what makes my coffee different. Getting the roast right was really difficult for me, to be honest. I had to waste so much at the beginning, and once I had to close the shop for a few days. I only had 2 weeks after I got the machine until the opening of the shop, and I intensely trained myself, occasionally with help of a coach from Giesen. It took me about a year until I could roast something I was completely happy with, and know which kind of beans I needed to achieve that. Before that, I sometimes saw some people left some in their cups, but after the breakthrough, no one leaves a drop anymore and the customers started to buy beans at a faster rate. It told me that I was on a right track.
５．Please tell us about your coffee.
It’s not like I only pick specialty coffee, but I usually end up with specialty ones at the end of selecting the beans. Many of the roasters are sourcing their beans from Wataru and other famous importers, but I source my beans from Matsumoto Coffee, a small and independent importer. I was looking for something new, something different, and I found out about them. They always give me reliable and high-quality products, and whenever I have questions or need advice, they are always there to support. Now I’m sourcing 100% of the beans from them, to make something unique in my own way. That’s why people find my coffee interesting, and I want to keep on working that way.
６．Your roast is mainly medium/deep roast. Why is that?
When I was attending customers at Starbucks, most of them were looking for something well-balanced--not too acidic, not too bitter, not too light. Then I thought about how I prefer my coffee, and making something that matches the request made sense. I personally like medium roast as well. Usually, I stop roasting right before the second crack, or at the end of the first crack for my lightest roasts.
７．It’s been 3 years and a half since the opening. How has things changed/shifted? What was your customers’ reaction?
At the beginning, I was sourcing the beans from the importers everyone else was sourcing from. After about a year, I changed the importer, and with that gained a great business partner and great beans. From that moment, the sales dramatically increased--it was a wonderful lesson that if I improve the quality, I will get great results.
８．That’s very interesting and encouraging that you can tell it instantly from your customer’s reaction! How did they find out? Did you promote the change on social network etc.?
I posted it on my blog but that’s about it. Customers tried new beans and they really liked them. Some of them started to give the beans to their friends as a gift, and more and more people started to support Saredo Coffee. The business is still growing and I will do my best to keep up the good work.
９．Any plans for the future?
I’m not planning to make any major changes. I have been developing my roasting to be reliably at a high quality, so the next challenge would be to improve the consistency without letting seasons and weathers affect the result.
I’d like to know more about what my customers think about my coffee. How they felt, if it has created a conversation, etc.
I think coffee shouldn’t be the center of the attention. It’s not something someone forces you to drink, but something that can trigger a fun conversation and a relaxing moment. It would be great if my coffee is making people happy like that.
There were 7 different kinds of single origin that are difficult to find elsewhere, a few blends, original coffee base and eye-catching chocolate that fill this lovely cafe with liveliness. Gondo-san’s gentle character and adorable, pastel colored “flower dripper” and many other coffee equipment are making the place incredibly comfortable but at the same time very intriguing. In Fukuoka, where the coffee culture is thriving with many great competitors, Saredo Coffee definitely has a one-of-a-kind unique charm.