Mr. Kasuya is the champion of the World Brewers Cup Championship 2016 and the video in the final that I saw on YouTube has stayed in my mind ever since. I couldn’t take my eyes off the performance as his emotion, “I am just enjoying coffee.” poured out of the screen. I thought to myself, “This is what coffee is all about.” After he became a champion, Mr. Kasuya and his business partner launched PHILOCOFFEA. Not only has he run the roastery, but he has an advisory contract with a company, which operates offering coffee service for the offices, and supervises coffees that are sold at convenience stores. He works on a scale in specialty coffee, which was previously unthinkable in the industry. I can feel his strong desire to change the coffee industry in Japan and he believes he can do it. We took the time to interview Mr. Kasuya again.
Bringing Japan’s Coffee Culture to the World
Mr. Kasuya states, “We recently opened a cross-border e-commerce website and what I want to communicate through the website is the art of Japanese pour-over coffee. Japan’s unique culture of dark roasting and flannel filter is very impressive from foreign perspectives. I believe that it is meaningful for a Japanese person who became the World Competition champion to do it.”
“That’s why I am now focusing on dark roasting and pursuing this specialty coffee in particular. It is said that the darker you roast, the less the character of the coffee comes out. There are still a lot of unknowns, but I have found a way of roasting which keeps the character intact even in a dark roast. The Loring Smart Roaster I use can only control the gas pressure, but when the gas pressure is lowered, the airflow becomes weaker, and the Rate-of-Rise (RoR) decreases. This means that it will require more roasting time and the taste becomes flat. After much thought, I found a way to keep the Rate-of-Rise (RoR) even when the gas pressure is reduced. By using this method, I should be able to produce unique flavors even with dark roasting.”
“While Japan has had a unique coffee culture for a long time, I feel that the coffee trend in recent years has been superficial and there are no particular points when they judge it. I think it’s a sign of lack of maturity to cite foreign countries as a model such as the U.S., Melbourne, and Scandinavia. “I always think that you should make your style of coffee. As long as you are doing the right reasons, it will spread, and I hope the world will take notice and follow suit.”
The important thing in the coffee
Mr. Kasuya states, “Since I needed to always use good coffees for the competitions, I was always looking for the best quality in the past, but I don’t think it is the only thing that matters. I don’t usually buy much at the auctions because they evaluate the quality of coffee only.”
“I said to Lem Butler, the finalist of the World Barista Championship 2016, “Since the World Barista Championship is a competition of skills, shouldn’t we all use the same coffee beans?” He said, “The competition is a place to share our discoveries, so if we use the same coffee beans, diversity will be lost.” I think diversity is very important in coffee. If you deny something or say something is wrong, I think you will hurt someone.”
Mr. Kasuya states, “I was reminded of this through my interactions with the producers. Instead of buying the completed and best coffees at a high price, I would rather work with producers to make the best coffees.”
“That’s why I would rather connect with lesser-known producers than producers from big companies. I’m sure they are looking for someone like me and I think it’s important for us to have a click, which is mutual when we work together.”
Mr. Kasuya states, “I visited Ethiopia the year before last because one of my trainees I taught about coffee works as an importer in Taiwan, and he asked me to go with him. He told me that I could request to process coffee from producers and I decided to go. I requested double anaerobic but it didn’t work out well at all and I knew the cause. Ethiopia is at a high altitude, so the temperature was too low and the fermentation didn’t go well. When I opened the lid, it turned out to be a normal natural. The Brix (sugar content) of the coffee cherries was high, accounting for 18-22%, so I knew it would taste good no matter how it turned out.”
“It’s not easy for buyers like roasters and baristas to be involved in the coffee production because it adds extra work to the producers and the responsibilities come with it. The lot I requested last year was not successful but I bought all of it.”
“What surprised me the most when I visited Ethiopia was “The washed process is super hard work.” It takes people to put the coffee cherries into the waterways and carry the parchments back and forth to the African drying beds dozens of times. It was great to visit the production areas and learn about these things, and it is simply fun to get involved with the producers. I want to meet and talk with the producers and if they are good people, I want to buy coffees from them. Coffee seems to be special because the production area is so far away but I think it is the same for everything and not just for coffee.”
Kasuya states, “As I was talking, it came to my mind that it’s important to communicate to the media about it and one of the media might be TYPICA.”
The certain thing that only I can talk about.
Mr. Kasuya states, “I think it’s important to tell the stories of the coffee but I’m not good at telling customers about coffee because I don’t like talking with customers. (laugh) I am the type of person to keep a certain distance from people. When I thought about how to tell the stories of the coffee, I thought, “I will just focus on making delicious coffee.” If the customer drinks it and finds it delicious, I think they will want to know more about it.”
“However, there are certain things that only I can tell people. I used to sell Geisha from the farm El Puente in Honduras and since I have visited the estate, I can tell people in detail how excellent the coffee is. There are very few farms in the world that can produce Geisha of the same quality. The difference is the way the saplings are grown and even the way the trees are rooted has been carefully calculated. I would like to tell people more information about the production area, which I believe the people would appreciate.”
Doing something new.
Mr. Kasuya states, “I think TYPICA is doing something new. I was surprised to see the breakdown of the full cost on the invoice, including ocean freight and their profits. Honestly speaking, I don’t think their competitors will be happy with them. I sympathize with TYPICA because they are taking risks and doing new things.”
Mr. Kasuya states, “I am also trying to do something new in a sense. I have advisory contracts with several large companies such as Nestle and HARIO and I also supervise coffees sold at convenience stores. I sent an email directly to the president of FamilyMart (a well-known convenience chain store in Japan) saying that I want to grow my company and buy more green coffee. I want to change the specialty coffee industry through the brand PHILOCOFFEA and change the mindset of the masses by partnering with large corporations. I want to improve the coffee market from both directions. I’m sure I probably will be criticized somewhere along the line but I don’t mind it at all.”
Mr. Kasuya has a great deal of influence in the industry and wants to change the mindset of the masses lightly. He purely and thoroughly enjoys new and interesting things. He has a love for people and coffee that comes naturally to him. This probably is the reason why so many people are attracted to Mr. Kasuya.
The text was originally written in Japanese by Ayane Yamada.
Interviewed by Yui Fujii.
I drink coffee with my family and friends. I like to drink it while talking about how delicious it is. Drinking coffee by myself is also good, but I don’t think I really enjoy drinking it when I am alone. I think it is interesting to sit around with someone with the same cup of coffee and talk about it or have a conversation triggered by the coffee and I think that is the power of coffee.