Tea

Japan and coffee

How Japan became the third largest coffee importer.

Japan is probably more associated with tea drinking then coffee. With traditional chashitsu (茶室, literally “tea rooms”) a major focal point in Japanese culture. However in recent years coffee drinking has been on the rise in Japan, almost nipping at the heels of United States in total cups drunk per capita. Considering that Japan only started importing about 250,000 bags of coffee in 1961, after the post-WWII reconstruction. So to reach 452,672 metric ton in 20111 is a meteoric rise.

A traditional Chashitsu in Nara, Japan
A traditional Chashitsu in Nara, Japan

Coffee drinking in japan started by Dutch settlers in Nagasaki toward the end of the 1700s. They were, however, restricted to a tiny island called Deijima due to Japan’s self-imposed isolation (鎖国 Sakoku). During the Meiji Restoration (明治維新 Meiji Ishin) in 1877, Japan started importing coffee in bulk. The growth was still pretty slow and it hit a major bump during WWII. As mention earlier after reconstruction is when it really started booming.

Dutch Trading post in Dejimia Circa early 1800s
Dutch Trading post in Dejimia Circa early 1800s

Now, with a whole new generation of Japanese growing up with coffee the consumption is at an all-time high. Although the bulk of coffee consumption in Japan comes from canned coffee and vending machines. Like everything else, the Japanese believe that anything worth doing is worth doing well. This caused an enormous increase of specialty coffee shops in Japan. With roasters and Baristas learning and developing new approaches to getting a perfect cup of coffee. When you walk down any urban Japanese street you will find as many coffee shops as say, in the United States. Now for the kicker, according to Euromonitor International Coffee has become more popular in Japan then Tea!

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  • 15 Dec 2015
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a guide to different brewing methods

A guide to different brewing styles Part 1

Whether you drink instant or only high-priced boutique shop coffee. You have seen or heard of a couple of different brewing methods, with its enthusiast’s extolling the one they use. If you are curious what the difference is and which one might be for you then read on.

Machine Drip Coffee:

Let’s get the lowly machine coffee out of the way first, so we can move on to the good stuff. If you are looking to upgrade from instant but do not want to spend any time or effort on brewing, this is the way to go. Most even have programmable functions, so you can have a fresh cup when you wake up, and/or heated plates to keep the carafe warm after the brewing process. However be forewarned what you are gaining in convenience you are heavily sacrificing in substance. Machine made coffees are acidic, often unbalanced and generally vastly inferior in complexity, compared to manually brewed coffees.

French Press or Cafetiere:

Osaka Coffee’s Zenrin-ji, French Press.
Osaka Coffee’s Zenrin-ji, French Press.

This is the easiest alternative to the machine method. Most French presses work the same way, with you placing the grounds in the carafe, adding the hot water and then plunging the filter finish it up. It is easy insofar that you do not have to babysit it the whole time, after adding the water you just wait 3-5 minutes for the coffee to brew and the filter it. It is usually recommended to use a coarse grind for a French press so that the grounds should not get past the filter. The coarser the grind is the longer you need to let it brew in order to get the most flavor out of the coffee. Since most French presses use a metal filter you do get the advantage of letting in the essential oils and flavors that usually get trapped in paper filters. The disadvantages are, that you do get a cloudier coffee then the pour-over method, and it is more acidic in taste.

Pour–Over:

 

Osaka Coffee’s Itsukushima, Pour Over.
Osaka Coffee’s Itsukushima, Pour Over.

The standard method for most coffee snobs. It requires a little babysitting as you cannot just pour in however much water you want. But you are rewarded with a nice good balanced cup of Joe. Depending on what you buy sometimes they come with disposable filters, and sometimes with reusable steel ones. We highly recommend the reusable ones, even though it needs to be cleaned, it does not trap any essential oils and flavors, which come in coffee beans. This vastly improves the flavor and complexity of the finished product. It works by placing the grounds in a cone shaped filter, and then slowly pouring in water as it drips through the filter. To get the perfect balance it should usually take about 3 minutes for each (6oz) cup of coffee. The tricky part is standing there and being vigilant not to pour too much water at once. You can buy these with carafe sets or just stand-alone filters that fit in multiple carafes, or with a cup stand so you can make a single serve.

Cold Brew

Osaka Coffee’s Mount-Fuji Cold brew dripper.
Osaka Coffee’s Mount-Fuji Cold brew dripper.

The cold brew is a long process (takes about an hour for each (6oz) cup of coffee. However, this method has the least acidity of any other method, about 60-70% less than a coffee machine. Just please do not compare it to ice coffee, it is nothing alike. An ice coffee is a regularly brewed coffee that gets chilled after brewing. This is slowly extracted coffee using ice water. Because the process is so slow it is best to use really coarse grinds. You place ice water in the top chamber and there usually is an adjustable dripper so you can control the speed. You set it to about 2 drips every 3 seconds, it usually needs adjustment halfway through. When it is fully “brewed” you will have a smooth almost acid free coffee. For those that usually drink their coffee with cream or milk, we would recommend trying this one black.

Vacuum or Siphon method:

Osaka Coffee’s Skytree Siphon brewer.
Osaka Coffee’s Skytree Siphon brewer.

Ahhh! The ultimate in coffee snobbery, this produces some of the best cups of coffee you will ever taste. The method is a bit complicated but is most definitely worth it. It involves boiling water in the bottom half, which can be made easier by buying a tabletop butane burner. You place the grinds in the top chamber while separate from the rest of the brewer, and when the water is ready you place it on top. The heat will generate a vacuum and the water will siphon to the top where the grounds are waiting for it. Once it is done brewing you remove the heat and let the coffee filter through the chambers. There is a cotton filter in between the two chambers that make sure you don’t get any grounds in the finished product.  Originally invented in Germany circa 1830, it became popular in the early 1900s and almost completely disappeared by the 1950s. Now vacuum coffee systems is making a major resurgence in Asia, and recently in the United States as well.

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  • 15 Dec 2015
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