Boundaries Dissolved: Roaster Visit in Tohoku

A group of coffee producers from Bolivia have arrived in northeastern Japan. As part of Roaster Visit, a multi-day tour of roasteries, the group traveled to the Tohoku region on October 7. Their itinerary mainly consists of meet-and-greets with roasters who visited them in their country about a month ago on a TYPICA Lab tour. The group and roasters celebrated their reunion with a warm hug.

Among the roasters are Yudai Hashimoto and his wife Yuri of Aomori-based COFFEEMAN good, Kazuhiro Nagasawa of Iwate-based NAGASAWA COFFEE, and Yusuke Matsuki of Miyagi-based KEYAKI COFFEE. They all said that it feels surreal to get to see coffee producers in their hometown merely a month after they met them in Bolivia.

During the three-day, two-night stay in Tohoku, the group frequently interacted with consumers, including actual regular customers at each roastery. The tour was a profound learning experience for people on both sides of the supply chain. It offered a rare glimpse into the people who are making coffee at the beginning of the chain, and the people who drink it down below. It was such a special moment that connected the opposite ends of the coffee chain.

To share in the memorable occasion, many people gathered at NAGASAWA COFFEE and KEYAKI COFFEE. They engaged in conversations with the coffee producers, telling them that they will be looking forward to this year’s crop from the producers. Through these face-to-face gatherings, coffee from these producers took on more meaning. For the participants, it is no longer just Bolivian coffee that they will be drinking; From today onwards, they will see it as the product of the hard work, passion, and care of someone they know. And this is exactly what we are striving to achieve at TYPICA – the creation and expansion of community.

One participant asked the coffee producers if there have been any changes to their mindset through their first ever visit to Japan and in-person interactions with roasters and consumers. Deysi of Finca Senda Salvaje replied that although she has always worked hard to make delicious coffee with loving care, she feels an even bigger responsibility now. “Meeting you all, and seeing that you are eagerly waiting for my coffee, made me want to work harder to make delicious coffee for you,” she said, expressing her joy.

The coffee producers seemed very fascinated by Japan’s coffee culture. Looking at a big roasting machine, one of them asked, “Where did you buy it?” and “What kind of roaster is this?” Others pointed at pieces of equipment they’d never seen before and asked, “What are these for?” and “How are these tools useful in serving delicious coffee?” The coffee producers took photos and jotted down notes to learn what steps are taken before coffee is served to customers.

The group also enjoyed a taste of local culture. In Aomori, they visited a facility displaying massive floats used at the famous Nebuta festival, which drew close to three million visitors from all over Japan pre-pandemic. In Miyagi, meanwhile, the coffee producers savored the region’s soul food “gyu-tan,” or grilled beef tongue. Andy of 4 Llamas kept saying “Shiawase! (I’m happy)”. (The list of Japanese vocabulary on Andy’s cell phone keeps on growing by the day.”

It’s been only three days since the coffee producers landed in Japan. But many new, deep connections have already been forged, and the boundaries between coffee producers, roasters, and consumers are fast dissolving.