The 2016 Specialty Coffee Association of Japan event took place recently in Tokyo, and Sprudge staff writer Hengtee Lim was onsite to check out the sights, sounds and sips of Japan's biggest coffee festival. From a coffee horse to 3D latte art and a diamond-studded kettle—not to mention the giant robot barista arm—these are the most memorable moments from SCAJ 2016.
Two Horse Stand-Off at Saza Coffee
I don’t know why, but it delighted me to find that Saza Coffee had not only brought back their coffee horse, but also brought a friend to keep it company. Incidentally, Saza Coffee’s Honma Keisuke also took home second place in the Japan Barista Championship. Coincidence…?
Syphon Coffee Tea Ceremony at Ueshima Coffee
Passing by the Uueshima Coffee Company area, I saw a sign that read, “Japanese Way of Tea, Deeply Rooted in Zen Teachings—when offering coffee, there are a few key aspects of the soul to keep in mind.”
Color me intrigued.
The syphonist sat in a small booth, clearly visible to waiting customers. This was said to show that nothing suspicious was at play, but it was also an indispensable part of the craft itself. The syphonist used Japanese lacquered bamboo paddles, known as Urushi.
The girls brewed with an air of quiet concentration, seemingly oblivious to the bustle and noise of the surrounding competitions and booths.
Tuxedo Kettle, Diamond Kettle
Takahiro had a booth in which their famed kettles were displayed, but the true highlights were kept behind glass: the tuxedo kettle and the diamond kettle.
I wanted one. Just so one day I could take it camping and in the morning say, “Oh, this old thing?”
Then I’d shrug. “I thought everyone had one.”
Oh, the fun I could have with a tuxedo kettle.
3D Latte Art
Next to the cube of zen syphon meditation, 3D latte artist Kohei Matsuno worked tirelessly on cup after cup of latte art; work that quite literally leapt from its cup.
Japan Hand Drip Champion spotting
Unlimited Coffee Bar’s hand drip champion Kota Sato was at the SCAJ for the Brewer’s Cup, but took a little time to pose with the Hario V60 home brewing machine that has stolen his recipe and may someday usurp his position, as well as the positions of all of Japan’s hand drip champions.
Robot Coffee Arm
Here’s the thing about Bubble Lab’s robot coffee arm: it didn’t just brew a cup of coffee, it also wet the filter, warmed the server, put out the coffee cups, poured the coffee, cleaned the server, threw away the used coffee filter, then cleaned the counter.
I don’t know about you, but I for one welcome our new robot overlords.
This short video by Good Coffee sums it up:
World Brewers Cup Champion spotting
World Brewers Cup Champion, Tetsu Kasuya, put in some time brewing Chemex style at the Ninety Plus Coffee booth, and later gave a demonstration before the results of the Japan Brewers Cup results were announced.
Coffee Bag Jute Bear
The Jute Bear at the CAFEC booth is a handmade piece of work designed to be both durable and unique to the touch, with proceeds from each sale going towards support for restoration after the Kumamoto earthquake.
Cute. Caffeinated. Coffee-style.
Ishitani Takayuki’s smoking signature drink
2016 marked the 11th time barista Takayuki Ishitani had made it to the JBC semi-finals. His valiant third place showing this year was once again a highlight, ending with a signature drink involving bergamot tea ice, three types of herbs, and dry ice to bring out the wonderful aroma of his selected Honduras coffee.
Hengtee Lim is a Sprudge staff writer based in Tokyo. Read more Hengtee Lim on Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Sonia Cao.