You won’t find the sleepy neighborhood of Kyodo on a Tokyo tourist map, but that doesn’t make its streets any less of a destination. It's a trove of restaurants and eateries, and spotted with fascinating places to shop and explore.
As the Kyodo shopping arcade bleeds into the nearby residential area, you might just come across a cement path lined with trees that leads to a small cafe. Inside, you’ll find the bright orange Diedrich roaster that marks the entrance to Finetime Coffee Roasters.
Finetime is a simple, humble affair, with a long counter and stools lined up against a wall dotted with art and a selection of books. As owner Takeshi Kondo shows me around, he says the name came from the New Order song of the same name, but he likes that it’s hidden behind a more literal meaning—what he wants the customer to experience.
When we sit down to talk, Kondo tells me that unlike many of the light-roast specialists in Tokyo, he’s still fairly new to the scene. After working in finance for some twenty years, he began craving something new, and in researching options for running his own business, wandered into the Tokyo coffee community.
“I knew when I quit finance that I wanted to start my own business. I like food, so I thought a cafe would be a good idea, and when I discovered specialty coffee I really liked it. I went to the Fuglen cupping every week, and everywhere else for research and seminars.”
Kondo was enamored with light roast coffee, and he quickly began building a network of green coffee suppliers—including Nordic Approach, Collaborative Coffee Source, and Cafe Tenango—to ensure a variety of interesting, fruity coffees.
Filter coffee at Finetime is served strictly via AeroPress. Kondo says this is because it’s not common in the area, and he likes how if he limits the coffee selection to AeroPress and light roast, he ensures that first-time locals will always be in for something new.
“Keeping the selection simple and limited was intentional. If we had a bitter coffee, people might skew towards it, and the same if we offered a choice between drip and AeroPress. I wanted to create a first-time coffee experience that surprised people like I was surprised.”
But perhaps the most surprising thing isn’t the light roast coffee, but the way Finetime has become something of a coffee shop for coffee shops, and a go-to spot for baristas and people in the industry.
“The local coffee scene is still pretty small, and I think we all like to drink unique, interesting coffees. We’ve always got around six different coffees available here, and we hold a cupping every weekend. It makes me happy when people visit.”
Though he says he’s still learning, it’s a testament to Kondo’s passionate approach that within such a short time he’s turned his shop into a go-to location, and taken third place in the 2016 Japan AeroPress Championship. To hear him speak, it’s clear that he’s a man who enjoys his work and the many challenges that come with it; it’s the results of this that drive him forward.
“For me, what I like most is making and serving coffee directly to our customers. I like being involved in so much of the process; sourcing beans, roasting them, brewing the coffee, and then watching people enjoy it. I like the way that experience repeats over and over again.”
It’s a simple joy grounded in a simple idea and worked at with a desire to share a very particular experience. And to think, it’s hidden in a little part of town you might never have even heard of.
Hengtee Lim is a Sprudge staff writer based in Tokyo. Read more Hengtee Lim on Sprudge.