Not to be cliché, but Osaka is a city of contradictions. It’s quiet and serene at one end and all flashy lights and madness at the other. It’s an urban metropolis powerhouse with gigantic metal highways and streets filled with business suits going to work, but it’s also calm, relaxed and full of greenery. Maybe it’s not so contradictory and maybe, just maybe, it’s balanced. This cultural dissection is all well and good I hear you say, but what you really want to know is what is the coffee like?
Stopping in Tokyo train station for some supplies before getting on the bullet train to Osaka, we picked up coffee’s favourite companion, some donuts from Boulangerie La Terre and She Knows bakery. Now the donuts we’d been eating so far were western imports, but these were our first foray into a more Japanese style of baking and patisserie. Its unusual at first but japanese doughs tend to either be chewy or cakey, La Terre’s being the former and She Knows being the latter, texturally its unusual, but flavour wise it’s new and interesting. La Terre’s were all fruity and big bold quality flavours, whereas She Know’s donuts were more akin to a brownie than a traditional donut, both worth a visit if you find yourself in the food haven of a Japanese train station. Ok, ok, coffee.
Arriving in Osaka we dropped our stuff off at the hotel and made the short walk back to Brooklyn Roasting Company, another US import and this time outside of Tokyo. We’d had the pleasure of visiting the roastery at its home in Brooklyn previously, which you can read about here, so we knew a little of what to expect. Now I’d like to tell you that this was way more Japanese than the Brooklyn branch, but if I’m honest both were very similar, relaxed, laid back and particularly casual. Sometimes it’s nice to be in a coffee shop where you can’t tell the difference between the staff and the customers, except when they’re offering to make you a drink.
Retaining its somewhat industrial warehouse feel, long functional communal tables fill most of the space, with some riverfront seating out the back. We had a look over the menu and ordered a single origin Kenyan batch filter and an iced cold brew, which came in their attractively branded take away cups.
Arriving with aromas of woodsmoke, cigars and demerara sugar, I started to expect quite a dark Kenyan, something I hadn’t had in a long while. To taste there was bitter chocolate, brandy snaps and some plum acidity coming through as it began to cool. Towards the end there was some pleasant citrus on the finish and its smooth nature reminded me somewhat of the kind of porter beers you get in English old man’s pubs. As the warm humid air flickered with the breeze from the river, we relaxed into Osaka and BRC’s complementary atmosphere.
It wasn’t particularly clear from the first picture due to all the reflections in the window, but there was a wonderful flower shop inside BRC to the right as you enter. Somewhat of a pop up collaboration, the flower shop was worth a visit in itself with the most beautiful of arrangements it was an attractive image on the eyes. As far as google maps is concerned it’s still there too, so don’t miss out on that if you have the chance to go.
Osaka, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi Kitahama 2-1-16
Over the years I have developed an appreciation of wine, as my appreciation of coffee and chocolate has increased, it seems this increase in appreciation is not unique to myself and is shared by Takamura Wine and Coffee, who slid sideways into coffee after appreciating the similarities with wine. Being that it was almost 10am when we arrived, we skipped on the wine and plucked for the coffee instead, after all that was why we were here.
Trust the wine connoisseurs to be stocking only the very best in coffee, the place with littered with cup of excellence this and 90+ that, not that I was complaining of course. It did make selecting a coffee a little difficult, but in the end we settled on a Panamanian El Carmen Geisha, which was brewed with an aeropress.
We settled in to the lofty heights of the lounge by the windows, as we waited for our coffees to brew. A beautiful display of airily arranged wooden beams seamlessly stacking bottles of wine, punctuated by high tech roasting machinery and wine dispensers, this was part warehouse, part wandering space. The coffee arrived bringing with it floral aromas of roses with pink candy floss like sugar notes. To taste there were flavours of rose, orange, strawberry with bunches of florals, the coffee was clean and honest with distinctive flavour notes. Smooth and juicy, this was the best cup of coffee I had had so far in Japan, there was no mistaking that this was a place dedicated to quality.
Our coffee had come in takeaway cups, but we lingered, for a long while, this place had a homely feeling, which made you want to stay and soak in the serenity and calmness, knowing that all around you only the best was on offer should you desire to get up and drink of it. Unmistakably one of the best three places I visited while in Japan.
2-2-18 edobori nishiku Osaka
Having managed to sneak ourselves into a last minute booking at Hajime, we found ourselves needing to take some time out to go shopping for some smarter clothes. Heading to the mega multiplex spanning a million floors both above and below ground at Osaka station, we found ourselves a short distance from the below ground Coutume, which occupies a space between rows of clothes shops in the rabbit warren like station underground. I’d recommend coming here if you get the chance, but good luck finding it is all I’ll say.
Having recently visited the Coutume in Tokyo I was pretty familiar with the menu and the set up behind the bar and thought this was a great opportunity to try a different coffee through the Steampunk, to get a better feel for the style of coffee this brewer produced. Looking over the brew menu I ordered a Kenya Kii AB, feeling this was sufficiently different from the Burundi to compare.
The coffee arrived with sherberty floral aromas and bags of citrus, maybe I should have picked something more different. To taste, there were some familiar impressions, again there was a lot of body, a sort of deep muddyness, again not unpleasant but characteristic of the brewing process. Flavour wise there was clear citrus and honey notes with a light vanilla in the background, this time though the coffee had a juicy mouthfeel to go with the full body. My impression of the Steampunk brewing method was that it produces a lot of body, extracts well and clearly for defined flavours, allowing for the individualities in the coffee to come through, but also putting a firm Steampunk stamp on it at the same time.
Osaka-shi, Osaka, Kita-ku, Umeda 1-chome Osaka Station Diamond underground shopping center No. 1
The next day heading out slowly for Dotonbori, the land of flashy lights and strange animatronics, with if we’re honest somewhat of a hangover, we ventured to a few relaxing coffee shops along the way, first finding ourselves at a little hole in the wall cafe, Millpour. A single man operation in a quiet side street littered with small independent stores selling ceramics and clothes. Here once again we found some peaceful respite with which to while away some of the early afternoon. After some confusion as to our order, owing mainly to a complicated order and some language barriers, we received our order, which we’d intended to be one black coffee and one iced latte, but well..
As you can see we received two iced lattes, but to be honest this was a welcome mistake, it was hot and humid outside and a little hungover, I was sweating just sitting there. I’d only tried to order black coffee because well that’s just what I drink, but if I’d ever wanted an iced latte it was now, it seems the barista knew better than me what I had wanted all along. I don’t tend to order coffee with milk in it and I never order an iced latte or anything similar due to the giant portions of flavoured syrups that inevitably end up in my mug, turning it into some kind of dessert like milkshake with an obligatory shot of coff-eine in. Thankfully this was an iced latte done the right way, brewed coffee shaken with milk and ice, served with a straw, perfect. Cold, smooth caramel with burnt cake ends, tasting like a milky coffee and not some gingerbread vanilla syrup frapalattechino. Sitting here a while we chatted away the minutes with a fellow patron who directed us to some lovely artisan shops and independent art galleries in the area. A truly nice neighbourhood cafe.
Japan, 〒542-0081 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Chuo Ward, Minamisenba, 3 Chome−9−6, 1