Sprudge.com contributor Harald Johnsen Vøyle attended the 2013 Japan Aeropress Championship at Fuglen Tokyo. Here's his complete accounting of the events, featuring the gorgeous photography of Mariko Kurose. This content was greatly aided by the editorial contributions of Yuuki Kakihara.
Unexpected virgin contestant wins Japan Aeropress Championship 2013!
On a beautiful, sunny Tokyo day, 12 Japanese barista competitors battled it out to earn the champion's title in their home nation's Aeropress Championship event, held at Fuglen Tokyo in the bustling Shibuya district. Some of the competitors travelled really far to compete in Tokyo – none further than the event's winner, Shinya Okabe (@ShinyaOkabe99), who journeyed more than 1000km all the way from down south in Fukuoka. “I tried to make the recipe as simple as possible, at the same time bring out as much fruity sweetness as possible,” Mr. Okabe told Sprudge after claiming his victory. We're impressed he had the guts to prove his worth among all the coffee professionals in the contest! It'll be interesting seeing this guy at the upcoming World Aeropress Championship in Melbourne!
Not a barista – but a brilliant home brewer.
Mr. Okabe has never worked with coffee professionally, but still he's a true coffee enthusiast. After being introduced to coffee by his friend, Noriko Sunaga (Owner/roaster at MANLY COFFEE), earlier this year he went to Fuglen in Tokyo and discovered aeropress brewing from Fuglen Manager Kenji Kojima. He came back to take a brewing class, and now, as a result of his amazing dedication, Mr. Okabe will represent the nation of Japan at the WAC in Melbourne.
Without a hitch, despite an amazing turn-out.
While most of the JAC contestants work in coffee, Mr. Okabe was not the only competitor from a non-coffee background. The event drew a wide variety of different people to Fuglen, filling the small venue to the brim with more than 60 attendants during the event. Despite a heavy turnout of competitors, well-wishers and onlookers, the event went down with no hiccups – as one might expect from the Japanese.
Crazy techniques!!! These OTAKU geniuses are creative!
Among the Japanese Aeropress contestants, a lot of them used metal filters. While the winner, Shinya Okabe (@ShinyaOkabe99), made good use of a relatively ordinary recipe, the 2nd and 3rd place winners used some pretty unorthodox brewing skills. 2nd place winner Yuta Ueda skimmed his coffee, spooning away what looked like half the coffee grounds used. 3rd place winner Ryota Viva Nakagawa (@viva_coffee on Instagram/Twitter) used a DIY flannel filter on top of his SSW metal filter. The “Nell filter”, as he called it, is Mr. Nakagawa's own invention, and it yields a surprisingly clean and sweet brew. Very interesting!
Massive attention for the skill-sharing event of the year.
In Japan the Aeropress is still fairly uncommon, which made this particular event Japan's premiere skill-sharing experience for a lot of baristas. And by virtue of being held at Fuglen (Japan's current national epicentre of coffee geekiness) resulted in quite a fair bit of interest from Japan's robust specialty coffee community. And while Shinya Okabe might have been a bit wet behind the ears, now he's sharing knowledge and experience with the best Japan has to offer, and he'll be taking that expertise to the upcoming WAC event in Melbourne.
A final note on the specialty coffee community in Japan.
While Shinya Okabe's championship victory was unexpected and delightful, I'd like to end this feature by noting how much unity and genuine excitement I witnessed in Tokyo. There were no roosters in this cage. Everyone was so excited just to be able to get together – nobody was hovering – and this sharing of experience became the single most most important aspect of the event for the attendees. In Japan, with their crazy hard-working culture, events like this are really uncommon – a welcome change from the daily demands of making high quality coffee.
Harald Johnsen Vøyle is the “pilot” and art director at Kaffikaze, a coffee branding and design studio based in Oslo. This is his first feature for Sprudge.com