It’s now official: Fuglen has opened a roastery in Tokyo. Located just outside of central Shibuya on the outskirts of Yoyogi Park, the quiet spot has been a busy hive of preparation, roasting, cupping, and experimentation over the last few months.
The focus at the new roastery is simple: to bring Tokyo a constantly cycling seasonal menu of quality coffees, including beans sourced by Nordic Approach, a boutique green importing company based in Oslo and helmed by Tim Wendelboe and Morten Wennersgaard. “The quality of green coffee is getting so much better with every year,” said head roaster Ben Symes, an Australian in charge of the project. “It’s really exciting to be part of the process of bringing these unique coffees to Tokyo.”
The transition is also something of a full-circle moment for Fuglen, who had previously been serving coffee roasted by a variety of Oslo roasters, including Tim Wendelboe. And so far, so good: the August-September line-up for Fuglen includes beans from Ethiopia, Kenya, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Burundi.
The roasting room itself is a sparsely furnished affair. Surrounded by long grass, trees, and plant life, the white walls and framed paintings are simple and charming. The rest of the interior is made up of a few tables, some shelving, a La Marzocco espresso machine, heaped bags of green beans, and a fully refurnished, vintage Probat roasting machine from 1948. This is, after all, Fuglen's very first roasting operation in the world, and you'd expect the aesthetics to be on-brand (i.e. tasteful Nordic minimalism).
Scattered around the boxes and bags of coffee are reports on location, plantations, and flavor characteristics, intended to go out with each coffee bean purchase. “It’s not just about the roasting and the barista anymore,” Mr. Symes told Sprudge. “Sourcing is evolving, and more effort is going into building relationships with plantation owners to really grow the best coffee. Behind every good coffee is a good story worth sharing.”
Fuglen co-owner Einar Kleppe Holthe, in town for the grand opening, mentioned that the roastery was something they’d been thinking about as soon as the Tokyo cafe opened in May of 2012. Supplying a steady stream of coffee shipments from Oslo to Tokyo was something of a logistical nightmare, Holthe admits. “In one way it’s a load of stress off our shoulders,” he said with a chuckle, adding, “but at the same time, Japanese people really appreciate good coffee, and in general appreciation for coffee as a product is on the rise. Being able to provide a variety of fresh, high quality coffee is really exciting.”
General Manager Kenji Kojima echoed the sentiment. “You can’t taste this kind of coffee anywhere else in Japan. Nordic Approach is unique, and we’re looking forward to sharing it.”
The grand opening kicked off with a casual barbecue party in the parking lot of the building space, quickly filling with specialty coffee lovers, industry types, and friends. Fuglen’s three owners were also in attendance, chatting, joking, and giving people tours of the new space.
With the tweaking and developing of flavors continuing as Fuglen brings over new coffee, and a group of dedicated, enthusiastic coffee lovers at the helm, the Tokyo coffee community has a lot to look forward to.