Traveling east and west in search of a delicious cup of coffee! We visited the shopkeeper, Mr. Mukai, at "Ippai no Coffee Shoten" on the 4th floor of Tokyu Hands Shinjuku Store!
Have you visited the six new shops (shops-in-shop) at the Tokyu Hands Shinjuku Store? "Shopkeepers" who represent these shops are strongly passionate about what they sell and are eager to tell you more than what you ask for. This time, we decided to have an unscheduled interview with the shopkeeper of "Ippai no Coffee Shoten" on the 4th floor, Mr. Mukai. He told us that he actively takes excursions just to have a good cup of coffee.
Basics for Brewing a Great Cup of Coffee
--Mr. Mukai, it's great to have you here!
It's my pleasure. I am Takahiro Mukai, the shopkeeper at "Ippai no Coffee Shoten" on the 4th floor of Shinjuku store.
--What were you doing?
I was just making coffee. I make coffee here like this every day. It's great because customers who are interested will often come to talk to me.
--I am also interested...! What sorts of customers come to talk to you?
As coffee is widely popular among Japanese people, a variety of people come by. Broad age range from teens to eighties. Some are interested but know little about coffee, and some have professional knowledge.
--Is that so!
What's great is that many of them come again. If you want to make good coffee at home, I recommend you to come and visit a number of times. Beginners tend to think it's difficult and requires special skills to brew coffee. They try to purchase expensive coffee brewing equipment, thinking it's better to start with a full set of gears. But I think it's important first to get used to brewing coffee, and to do so, you should purchase inexpensive equipment so that you can start casually. I think that you should take it slowly and not force it so that you can enjoy without forcing yourself.
By the way, for those who want to try brewing coffee at home, I recommend them hand drip coffee. Coffee makers are convenient since they make great coffee with a touch of a button, but if you are interested in "brewing it yourself," you should start with hand drip coffee. That way, you can enjoy the process of brewing and get hooked on it.
--Is there a trick for beginners to make "great coffee"?
The freshness of the coffee grounds is really important. Coffee made with freshly ground coffee beans has a significantly different aroma and tastes much better. So, you should make a habit of grinding coffee beans each time you make coffee instead of grinding them in large quantities and storing them. There are certain ways to pour hot water, too. Come and stop by, and I'll let you know more in detail!
What he learned from the world champion, Mr. Kasuya
--Where do you get your knowledge and trends on coffee from?
I meet with manufacturers to exchange information or seek advice from Mr. Tetsu Kasuya, the first Asian to win the world championship at the "World Brewers Cup," an international hand drip coffee brewing competition. It is because Tokyu Hands has connections with him.
--Of the things you learned from Mr. Kasuya, what was the most memorable?
Technical skills, of course, but personally, learned a lot from him on how to interact with customers. When customers ask questions, Mr. Kasuya answers them respectfully and on firm grounds, no matter how rudimentary they may be. His explanations are so convincing, whoever asks questions think, "let's give it a try!" I try to follow his ways.
He also taught me how to mix the concentrated coffee extract with tonic water or liqueur to make "coffee cocktails," which has recently become popular. Many tend to have coffee in the morning and in the afternoon. This may become popular as the coffee to enjoy at night. You can make blend it with many kinds of things you have at home, so I'm also trying different things. We have alcohol-related goods along with coffee goods. If you'd like to know more about it, please come and take a look.
--Unique coffee has recently been drawing attention, such as the Third Wave Coffee. What sort of coffee do you like?
This is strictly a personal opinion, but I like coffee with clarity and sweetness that still tastes good after it gets cold.
--Do you go to cafes and coffee shops in other areas for research purposes?
I often do, but I have been doing it for a long time, so it's more like a hobby rather than work. Unfortunately I can't drink much, I can only take three cups or so a day (he laughs).
--Do you have a favorite cafe?
The one that I've recently come to like is a coffee bean specialty shop "KOFFEE MAMEYA" in Omote-Sando. You consult with the staff and select your favorite kind of beans from around the world to have it brewed for you. It was really good. The coffee I had at a cafe in a hot spring area called Tenzan in Hakone was also delicious. The freshness of water does make a difference.
--You've been to various places!
There are unique shops all over the country! Customers and I often get excited talking about "where we've been" and "where we recommend."
He wishes to create an opportunity to make good coffee
--Do you have snack or sweets with coffee?
Yes, I do. I have a big sweet tooth, so I often eat sweets.
--What is your favorite?
--Wh.. Whipped cream?
Yes! I heard about a cafe in Komoro, Nagano Prefecture that serves out-of-this-world whipped cream, so I went there the other day. It was so fresh that I could smell the aroma of the milk and was greatly pleased. I'd love to talk to hardcore whipped cream fans with whom I can share this excitement [laughs].
--We can feel your enthusiasm for it...! It sounds like you're usually off somewhere on your day offs.
Aside from coffee and sweets, I am a railroad fan. So, I like visiting places on trains.
--You take trains that you love in order to have a special cup of coffee... That sounds wonderful!
Just like coffee, trains are all highly unique, and I never get bored of them! I think both of them will be my hobby for a long time to come (laughs).
--Trains and coffee have an unexpected common feature...! Lastly, Mr. Mukai, please tell us your goals and resolutions as a "declaration of a shopkeeper"!
What I want to accomplish as a shopkeeper is simple. I want to make my shop a place where I make "good coffee" to each customer's liking it. I would like to have customers stop by casually after work or on their days off and have fun pursuing the coffee they like. I'll be here, calmly brewing coffee. I will be happy to have you talk to me about anything.
How did you like the interview? Come and visit the shopkeeper, Mr. Mukai, at "Ippai no Coffee Shoten" on the 4th floor of Tokyu Hands Shinjuku Store. Beginners, as well as coffee experts, are sure to find some new discoveries!