Early November has brought a crisp, bright canopy of autumn leaves to the city and, last weekend, a similarly striking event, the inaugural Fukuoka Coffee Festival, kicked off at JR Kyushu Hall. Just as those natural colours have lit up the streets with blazing growth and change, this Hakata-based event emphatically highlighted the vibrancy and health of the city’s booming coffee scene.
Roughly speaking, the festival consisted of three complementary elements. Upon entering the coffee scented lobby, visitors were met with six tasting stalls run by various Fukuoka stores: Manly, Bimi, Rec, Roaster’s, Honey, and Moda Coffee. With each stand offering samples of a different brewing method, these stalwarts of Fukuoka coffee presented a wonderful opportunity to taste the nuanced flavour profiles of blend and single origin coffees. The natural-processed Ethiopian beans filtered in an Aeropress by Manly Coffee were a particular highlight; this coffee’s earthy, lemony tartness juxtaposed the slightly bitter, but also very enjoyable, South American blends from the likes of Moda and Bimi Coffee. All in all, a great chance to experience the subtleties created by different origins, bean processing, and brewing methods, and so to enjoy some of the true magic of black, speciality coffee.
Moving on through, the main cavern of JR Kyushu Hall hosted 29 stands occupied by a mixture of roasters, coffee houses, apparatus wholesalers, and bakeries. With jazz cooing out of the overhead sound system, the atmosphere was bright and expectant as a surprisingly diverse crowd mingled with stall holders.
Now, coffee is a great fuel for everyone, but specialty coffee has generally become the mainstay of younger generations in third wave coffee movements worldwide. And at first glance, the festival did contain hipster-esque elements common to speciality coffee events abroad; for example, a few young, cap-donning baristas stood under minimalist logos nurturing V60s with precision, some even adding the edgy snap of a Casio calculator watch or a bit of facial hair action.
Hipster merch at Stereo Coffee
However, wonderfully, this ilk of coffee stereotype was in a minority at the Fukuoka Coffee Festival. Instead, the complex and dynamic nature of the jazz streaming overhead was echoed by the breadth of the crowd in age and interest. The great diversity of bean sources and brewing methods employed by passionate stallholders young and old also highlighted the vibrant and accessible nature of the Fukuoka coffee scene. Alongside the lovely young crew at the County coffee stall, I got chatting to a legend of the local roasting scene, Kazuhiro Adachi, owner and head roaster at Adachi Coffee. The business has been serving speciality coffee from around the world black since 1999, way before the third wave boom, and Mr Adachi noted that much development in technology and techniques has occurred since Adachi Coffee began. But, talking to this master roaster alongside his younger counterparts like Rec Coffee barista Takasugi Sasaki, it’s clear that in their diversity they still share a central vision for the Fukuoka coffee industry: despite the huge variety of sources, roasting, and brewing, ‘coffee is coffee!’ and making great coffee is their shared ambition.
Kazuhiro Adachi of Adachi Coffee
The pursuit of quality in the field of milk-based coffee was similarly evident in this main room, as those looking for their milky coffee hit were accommodated for by various stalls. As the likes of Manu Coffee brewed up a steamed milk storm, I spoke to festival attendees about how lattes and cappuccinos had captured their imaginations, a phenomenon also observed by Shinsuke Sato of NO COFFEE, who celebrate their 1st anniversary next month.
Latte Art Workshop
Takahiro Ando of Townsquare Coffee Roasters showcased the Fukuoka mastery of milky coffee craftsmanship. The second placed barista at the 2014 Coffee Fest World Latte Art Championship Open led a workshop at midday which formed part of the third aspect of the festival’s schedule: coffee workshops and demonstrations held throughout the day on the main stage. Mr Ando’s interactive demonstration was particularly well-watched by the crowd, encouraging the later formation of a long queue to Instagram his precision pouring of various lattes and other orders. Ultimately, such hype around milk handling contributes to the breadth and potential for further quality development of the Fukuoka coffee scene.
Takahiro Ando of Ando coffee pouring a latte.
As well as offering a chance to grab brewing kit, buy coffees, and meet barista heroes, these stalls fundamentally provided an excellent opportunity to chat to loads of fantastic roasters and baristas and gauge the dynamic of coffee consumption in Fukuoka. Speaking to the founder of the event, Mr Hirata, provided a particularly golden nugget of insight into the passion of those working in coffee here. The Fukuoka Coffee Festival is the fruit of 25 years of dreaming, Mr Hirata said, and he was delighted by the popularity of the event on its opening day. Not only did the diversity of those attending highlight the great variety of taste and processes in the local community of roasters and brewers, he noted that it also bodes well for the future of the industry in Japan’s fifth largest city. Mr Hirata shared his vision for the ongoing development of Fukuoka coffee, hoping to encourage and train the next generation of sourcers, roasters, baristas, and enthusiasts.
And speaking to those attending this inaugural Fukuoka Coffee Festival, it was clear that the event had helped catalyse or perpetuate such an enthusiasm for great coffee. The breadth of beans, methods and tastes all indicated the excellent health of this city’s coffee culture, and were admirable expressions of the commitment of both consumers and producers to pursuing quality. This really was an exciting and accessible event, which presented great hope for the ongoing development of the coffee industry in this dynamic city. Cheers to that and bring on next year!
Text and photos by Fern Brereton for Fukuoka Now
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