shimaji coffee roasters is located not far from Hiroshima Station and because of the clarity of the shop’s focus on roasting light roast coffee at the shop, coffee lovers are beginning to recognize shimaji coffee roasters as Hiroshima’s light roast coffee shop and its reputation is widely known among coffee lovers as the place to be. We interviewed Mr. Yoshitaka Shima the owner who insists on the “limited choice” or “limited selections” of light roast coffee.
I want people to realize the appeal of light roast coffee.
Light roast coffee specialty stores are often considered to be coffee enthusiasts’ shops and difficult to enter because of their specialized nature; it is difficult to go there without the knowledge of coffee. When you go to shimaji coffee roasters, you’ll find the unexpected in a good way.
The owner, Shima states, “We want people to feel familiar with us. To make people feel comfortable and familiar with us, we wanted something that people can relate to us in a way that this shop is famous for great ambience, warm and friendly service, and so on, for example. I think it’s important for people to understand that shimaji coffee roasters is that kind of place.”
The reason why Shima insists on light roast coffee is to dispel the negative impressions of light roasting, tasting thin and sour, and to make people aware of its appeal. Many customers excitedly tell us, “My impression of acidity has changed.” or “I can now see that light roast coffee is delicious.”
“Light roast coffee aims to reduce the bitterness and roasted aroma of the coffee as much as possible so one can enjoy the original flavor and taste. The first taste may be watery or it may feel smooth but it has a tea-like taste and long after taste is a quality of light roast coffee,” states Shima.
Shima opened his shop in 2018. Before opening the shop, he worked at Starbucks for more than ten years. Since his wife’s parents live in Hiroshima, he and his wife moved to Hiroshima from Tokyo in 2015.
Shima states, “We were worried that we wouldn’t be able to make it in Tokyo, where there was a third-wave coffee boom and the number of major coffee shops like Blue Bottle Coffee was increasing.”
“On the other hand, the coffee market in Hiroshima was still in the middle of an expansion. Rather than opening a café, which is quite numerous in the area, I thought that a store specializing in coffee would be more novel and would allow me to express my true self. The people of Hiroshima are very open to new things, and the warmth of the people was one of the reasons I decided to open a store specializing in light roast coffee in Hiroshima.”
In Hiroshima where specialty coffee is still not widely known, coffee shops and roasters are working together in a team at coffee festivals to learn about coffee and to boost the local community. Due to the Covid-19, no festivals and study groups are held but the team that Shima is also a member is looking forward to new developments.
In search of a wider-world.
Shima first entered the world of coffee when he was 21 years old. After graduating from a high school specializing in cooking, he left his hotel job as a cook in his hometown of Toyama; he worked for about three years before moving to Tokyo. He began working as a part-time staff at Starbucks.
Shima states, “My favorite artists don’t hold national tours in Toyama prefecture and there are no nationwide-chain stores. I didn’t want to end up in such a small world, and I frankly wanted to see the world.”
He states that he chose to work in the café because he wanted to try something new that he had never done before where he doesn’t have to rely on his previous knowledge or job experience in a high school nor at a hotel in the Western cuisine, bakery, and pastries.
“I had always worked behind the scenes, so it was refreshing and fun to have direct contact with the customers and get first-hand reactions. I was thinking at first that coffee was black and bitter and there was not much difference in taste, but I got interested in the coffee when I found out that it tastes different even though they look the same, and I became more and more attracted to the world of coffee.”
The experience of jumping into a new world with a fresh start also changed his way of living life.
“I remember that my love of making things led me to pursue a career of becoming a cook. I liked creating things and not just cooking, but the process of creating something with my own hands. The big difference between then and now is that I mainly used to follow recipes or imitate how other people cooked; I didn’t have much time to think about it nor create things from a scratch.”
“At the time, my purpose was to improve the precision of the techniques that were required for a particular task at work, and I was satisfied when I could do it beautifully. I think that my work at the hotel was an extension of that.”
After discovering coffee, Shima began to actively collect information on coffee and visited various coffee shops to search for his uniqueness.
As his goal to open his coffee shop became more concrete and he was put in a situation where he had to think about what he needed to do to achieve this, it may have brought out feelings that had been dormant inside of him. Shima states, “During my time at Starbucks where I worked for more than ten years, I had many thoughts of changing my job to a shop specializing in coffee, but my wife who is has a permanent employment job was very much against it, so it never happened.” (laughs)
Chances of having more possibilities.
The website of shimaji coffee roasters, the menu, and the interior design of the shop are simple and clear, which is consistent throughout shimaji coffee roasters that are without unnecessary decorations.
Shima states, “I don’t want people to be distracted by so many things. I want them to focus on one thing and face it.”
In this day and age when there are so many choices and selections, a store that dares to narrow down its options becomes unique in its right.
Shima states, “The more you narrow down your choices, the more specialized you become, and although the world of light roast coffee may be small, I hope that once you enter, you’ll see that the world of light roasting is also quite distinctive.”
“After opening the shop in 2018, customers who didn’t know about the existence of light roast coffee came to the shop for a while and often requested coffee without acidity or bitter coffee. He explained the concept of the shop and offered something close to the customer’s preference each time but he never thought of offering anything other than light roast coffee.”
He never thought of offering anything other than light roast coffee because once people try light roast coffee, some of them will keep drinking it. If there is a choice, people tend to choose the one they know and are familiar with, so they lose the opportunity to try light roast coffee. I would like to continue to choose only light roast coffee and provide opportunities for people to “have no choice but to drink light roast coffee.”
There is something that makes me wonder. More than a decade after leaving the region with “limited choices,” Shima is running a shop that has a ‘niche’ in the coffee business with “limited choice” or “limited selections.”
He states, “My choice to specialize in light roast coffee is based on my experience on tasting a variety of coffees. When I was in Toyama, on the other hand, I didn’t know about other cities. I think there are times when you learn about the goodness of the place you are from as a result of learning about other places.”
The concept of shimaji coffee roasters overlaps with the life of Shima, who left his hometown at the age of 21 to find a new world as discovering his new self.
“I want you to open the new door to light roast coffee and enrich your life.” Perhaps, this is the message of the Shima who offers “limited choices” at his shop.
The text was originally written in Japanese by Tatsuya Nakamichi
It’s the coffee I drink after breakfast surrounded by my family. Although it is a very ordinary part of daily life, it is an important time to communicate with the family and raise my spirits at the beginning of the day. I am into Rwandan coffee recently that comes in fresh which is seasonal. I am not particular about the coffee equipment I use at home but it helps me to know more about the character of the coffee.