We have a very happy, but very sad news to share- Kurasu family’s big brother, Barista Kume is leaving Kurasu this summer to open his shop.
To wrap up his 3 years at Kurasu, we interviewed Kume-nii to ask all about him.
We are also planning to visit his brand new cafe once it opens in August which we are super excited about- we are looking forward to telling you all about it too!
１. How do you feel at the moment?
Kume: Pretty neutral, actually. I’ve lived and worked long enough to experience many hellos and good-byes, and I know this isn’t our forever good bye, so I’m OK.
２. What made you choose your career as a barista?
Kume: I had this vague aspiration to provide people with space where they can relax and enjoy, and it didn’t have to be as a barista. I spent the first half of my twenties trying to figure out how to realize that, and boy I tried many things- I once was making sushi in Australia, then went into farming, then I had a great cup of coffee on my trip to Melbourne. I thought “this is what I want to do”, and decided to be a barista. I can’t remember the cafe’s name and I didn’t even like coffee back then though.
ーーーOh, I thought you always liked coffee.
Kume: I didn’t. I’ve never had good coffee until then, but anywhere I went in Melbourne, coffee was always tasty. I still couldn’t drink coffee without milk, so I often ordered a latte to go and walked around the city- that’s how I fell in love with coffee.
I still had one more year on my working holiday visa, but I decided to go back to Japan once, and got a job at Starbucks. I learned a lot about coffee and got trained as a barista, and started to dream about working in the coffee industry overseas.
I was 27 or so, and by then I had tried many jobs. Once I even took a course in college to be a Japanese teacher- looking back now I think I wanted some sort of qualification. I thought, if I'm qualified as a Japanese teacher I can get a job anywhere in the world. But then I realized that wasn’t a good enough reason to aspire to be a teacher, so I quit right before graduation.
ーーーYou didn’t finish the course? That sounds a bit mottainai.
Kume: I know, right? But the next thing that came to me was the barista. It was like a realization, “hey I can work anywhere in the world if I become a barista.” My wife has a long established career as a hairstylist, and I admired that- I wanted the same kind of thing that defines my identity, too.
I used to be in a sales department of a company and worked as a salary man, but I was very aware that I wasn’t gaining any skill through my career. If I were to be fired, there was nothing left for me to survive. But now, even if I suddenly get fired, or have to move to somewhere else, I can work fine as a barista. I found my profession and my identity, and it still feels great to this day that I finally found this for myself after going through the long and winding road.
ーーーWhich country did you move to after that?
Kume: When I was about to turn 30 I thought about going back to Melbourne, but I heard that if I wanted a citizenship, I’d have a better chance in New Zealand. So we moved to New Zealand and lived there for 4 years, but my wife got homesick so we moved back to Japan.
Then I heard from my former sensei at Starbucks who was working at Kurasu back then that they were hiring. The rest is history.
Questions from Kurasu staff members
・What’s your favorite brewing method?
Kume: Hmmm, espresso, probably. I love it when I could pull a great shot- it’s the best when you know you did a good job, and you can taste it in the cup too.
・What kind of coffee do you brew at home?
Kume: Actually, I don’t make any coffee at home. I have plenty of it at the cafe, and I should cut down the amount of caffeine sometimes. Like you should avoid alcohol from time to time to give your body a rest.
I love coffee, but it’s not like I can't properly start a day without one. If I drink coffee, I want it to be meaningful and enjoyable, rather than just from force of habit.
・Any memorable moment during your time at Kurasu?
Kume: Now that’s a difficult question to answer. I guess working at a cafe isn’t about some particularly special moments, but the joy is in finding little differences in a seemingly repetitive routine work. I like routine work and I’m good at improving myself through that repetitiveness. Like, I can eat curry every single day and can still enjoy it, but it’s fun to make it slightly different or better each day. In that sense, I don’t have any specific moment I call memorable, but I loved every single day I spent at Kurasu. Live each day to the fullest! That’s my motto.
- But you must have some bad days from time to time, right?
Kume: I try to do my best, be fair, and treat everyone equally. I don’t want to do a sloppy job. You know, like “well my performance may not be 100% today but this customer is a regular and they’ll surely come back again, so it’s fine”- I hate that kind of way of thinking. If I know I couldn’t do a good job, I always ask if I can brew the cup all over again.
・Was there any intense moment?
Kume: Before the pandemic, the cafe used to be a total chaos during the cherry blossom season and in the autumn- it gets ultra busy.
I would say those were intense moments, but I really enjoyed those hectic times from the bottom of my heart. That’s what I was trained for, and it’s still nothing compared to how busy it used to get in the cafe I was working at in New Zealand. I had to serve my best at top speed, and personally I believe those two qualities must come hand in hand.
Of course I’m only human, and technically speaking there may be a difference in flavor and other qualities between a cup brewed under a big time pressure and a cup I could take as long as I wanted to work on. However, making that discrepancy as close to none as possible is about being a professional barista. I look back on those days now and I like to think I did a pretty good job there.
- What were you focusing on in those moments?
Kume: In New Zealand I trained myself to brew and serve a good quality cup as quickly and efficiently as possible, even when the cafe wasn’t busy, and I believe I still have that.
I also enjoyed teamwork- I like doing everything by myself, but nothing beats that adrenaline rush when I nailed a perfect teamwork with a great barista when the cafe was super busy. We’d survive a crazy busy rush and high-five at the end of it- I just loved it. I hope the pandemic will soon be over and those moments will come back once again.
- We will need you to jump in on a day like that!
Kume: Haha, no you guys come and help me please.
His eventful path to his current career, his philosophy and life story- everything was so him, and his genuine personality and sense of humor made this interview full of smiles and surprises as he always does.
One the second half of the interview, we asked even more about him- stay tuned, and see you next time!