The next #KurasuPartnerRoaster is Tsujimoto Coffee, which is also known as “Suteki na Jikan” (means a sweet/nice time in Japanese), found in the south of Osaka. The owner, Tsujimoto-san was born into a family that has owned a Japanese green tea company for five generations- we interviewed him to unveil howspeciality coffee crossed his path, and what makes Tsujimoto Coffee special.
Transition from a Traditional Japanese Green Tea Company to Specialty Coffee Shop
As a future successor of the company, young Tsujimoto-san’s dream was always to run the family business and pass it onto the next generation. However when he reached the age of actually considering it as a career, he noticed that the environment for the Japanese green tea industry had changed a lot, including the business model, needs of the market and logistics. To support the business, Tsujimoto-san took on a coffee drip bag manufacturing business, utilizing the factory and technique he already had. Although his encounter with coffee occured out of necessity, it grew on him and his relationship with coffee has turned into something special after the Great East Japan earthquake.
“Thankfully we had customers across Japan, but we lost contact with those in Tohoku region for a while after the disaster. A few months later, they messaged us, and they told us about how much our coffee helped them with taking their normal life back, after losing so much of what’s important to them. That made me realize that coffee can be such a powerful tool to cheer up and refresh people’s minds. I was drawn to coffee even more, and that led to my interest in the wide world of coffee’s flavor and quality. Later I joined SCAJ (Specialty Coffee Association of Japan), and learned a great deal about specialty coffee”, Tsujimoto-san recalls.
Tsujimoto Coffee’s Roast
Tsujimoto-san has been manufacturing drip bags for 16 years, and he started his own roasting three or four years ago. Before then, he had been processing purchased coffee, but as the sales increased he started roasting, hoping to engage more in quality control and the raw materials.
The first roasting machine he installed was a direct-flame roasting machine, and he was roasting with low gas pressure with a tightly closed damper. For each batch he was roasting 3㎏ of coffee in a 4㎏ capacity, and roasted for a little less than 30 minutes for the thorough roast. Later on he was intrigued by the completely different, juicy flavor and floral aroma of a light roast, and attended various seminars to explore new roasting methods.
Last year, Tsujimoto Coffee added a Loring Smart Roaster to their roasting setup, and it has liberated them even more to explore their style while maintaining the quality and the characteristics of the green beans.
"A few years ago, at a seminar for Loring Smart Roaster in Denmark, I learned that the total time can have such a big impact on taste. The cupping session proved that the flavor was really different. Even if the finishing temperature was the same, a little difference in the duration time made the biggest difference. I was very impressed. I have been experimenting a lot since then- for example, with a direct-flame 4kg machine it is important to keep the damper shut at the beginning, otherwise the fire wouldn’t be strong enough. So I increased the heat energy at the start, and start lowering the fire as the coffee starts to give Maillard reaction. Then I also open the damper a little at that stage to give it some convection. The key is to not to roast too much after the crack- for light roasts it usually takes me about 10 minutes”, Tsujimoto-san explains.
“Suteki na Jikan”
One of the things that makes Tsujimoto Coffee unique is the wide variety of products that they offer. At the cafe you will find it almost impossible to choose from the long and attractive list on the menu, and at their online shop you can get practically anything- single origin specialty coffee, their original blends, decaf, drip bags- they even have a series of coffee each designed to pair well with different type of bread. “It did not end up this way by design- just a consequence of me trying to share everything I found tasty and interesting”, Tsujimoto-san laughs.
"Coffee is like a switch to refresh the mind and resets oneself. We have a coffee called “the moment after rain”, and that is one of the coffees inspired by what coffee can do. One day I dropped by a shop, where the shop staff was about to see their regular customer off. The staff opened the door, and said, ‘oh look, the rain has stopped.’ And that instant of refreshing joy shared in the atmosphere reminded me of the feeling I have when I drink a cup of coffee. Coffee can change our mood like that”, he explains. Their motto is to deliver “Suteki na Jikan”, a pleasant moment in people’s lives through coffee, by offering much more than the coffee itself, and his coffee is the demonstration of their philosophy.
The Unexpected Benefit of E-commerce
Tsujimoto-san opened an online shop on Rakuten Market in 2005, as a preparation and funding for their future physical shop. At first they were taking it easy, seeing it as a nice little opportunity for people to find them and enjoy their coffee- however through running the online shop, Tsujimoto-san said he noticed something.
“We are located in a remote area of Kansai region, and without e-commerce we could never be noticed by many of our regular customers from Aomori, Tokyo and Kyushu. At first I thought seeing and talking to the customers face to face is the best way of communication, but I realized that actually there are so many more contact opportunities over the internet- we can communicate back and forth with our customers several times to sort out details such as delivery information, or send a welcome message, thank you letter, follow-up of the order and feedback from the customers- whereas at a shop we may never see them again once they leave the building. After noticing that we are spending a lot of time and effort in our online side of the business, to expand the possibilities we have”, Tsujimoto-san says.
Presentation of the delivered goods is one of the things Tsujimoto-coffee takes pride in- he always tells his fulfilment staff that “we can’t see the faces of the customers, but imagine you are packing the items right in front of them, and send it out just like you send gift to your dear friends”, with a belief that the attention to details can convey a positive message.
Tsujimoto-san is considering to enhance the services on their online platform, while exploring the possibility of supplying restaurants and tourist destinations where serving good coffee is not yet the main focus of the business. “I enjoy travelling, and I love the relaxing time I spend at the destinations. it would be fun if I can work with those places so that people can enjoy a good cup of coffee anywhere”, Tsujimoto-san smiled.
As people's lifestyles and communication become more diverse, the needs of the market are rapidly changing. Tsujimoto Coffee, adapt as they grow while maintaining the core values and the basics of human-to-human interaction, demonstrate that a great opportunity lies ahead.