CHAPTER 5
Japan’s Liquid Power

Jaime van Schyndel practices Japanese coffee at Barismo in Arlington, Massachusetts. He is intrigued with Japanese roasting methods, with the meticulousness of “polishing” the beans down to a singular flavor. He says that what people call “finickiness” is tied to real quality, a quality he attempts in his own roasting. The technology of coffee in Japan, he says, engages the hand and mind skills of the maker, rather than giving priority to automation and standardization. He has two roasting machines modeled after the Japanese Fuji Royal roaster, made and customized for him in Taiwan. Coffee gear from Japan—including home siphon systems, drip coffee makers, and cloth filters—fill the shelves in the front of the shop, which is half coffee-geek heaven, half old-world craft studio. In method and presentation he and this shop could be in Japan.

Japanese coffee at the high end is now branded to mean the best in quality, techniques, and technologies. Japanese-made coffee equipment is now sold overseas by coffeehouses and individuals; the appearance of such devices now demonstrates their seriousness in coffee. It is not just Japanese equipment. Coffee-making rituals are practices taken to extremes, removed by this excess from the original practical goal of making a good cup of coffee; one exasperated American reviewer noted as he tried to produce the effect, “There was so much serial water heating, filter soaking, blooming and pausing—and so many concentric circles—that I felt chained to the kitchen counter, less coffee server than coffee slave.”1 One café, the Blue Bottle in San Francisco (named for Kolshitsky’s 1683

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