Weekend mornings in Osaka sometimes start hungover in capsule hotels. Here, with the remains of the late-night party goers, the businessmen who missed the last train, and the assortment of lost, tired souls, we wake from wild nights of drinks and takoyaki to bent necks and aching heads. In this, our shared period of recovery, the morning cup of coffee feels that much more important.
Fortunately, Osaka rumbles with a gradually expanding coffee scene, and on that particular overcast morning, Sunday beckoned to wandering the streets and discovering the coffee sights. Or at least, I hoped, some quiet time in a cafe with Junot Diaz and “This Is How You Lose Her“.
After a morning V60 at the sleek new Coutume Osaka, (open from 8:00 a.m. even on weekends) I jumped on the metro to Kitahama, where the walk to a clearer, more caffeinated consciousness began—a journey away from the hazy regrets of the evening prior, and into the arms of a warm cup of coffee. Or two. Or four.
However many it would take.
Kitahama is home to Brooklyn Roasting Company, a cafe that shares its space with the beautiful bois ck gui florist, and has its roots in New York. On brighter days the deck is open, overlooking the river, but even when closed the space is a warm home to a selection of Brooklyn's roasted offerings, alongside a healthy selection of Mast Brothers chocolate.
I sat nursing a latte, and munched on a cranberry cookie courtesy of local bakery, BASEMENT. Opening my book, I attempted to read the first line multiple times, but found it too much like reading a vocabulary list—the words refused to make sentences, and the opening line, “I’m not a bad guy” seemed impossibly long. It was time to move on.
West of Kitahama in Higobashi, is Takamura Wine and Coffee Roasters—a vast warehouse space of wine racks, specialty coffee, and vintage furniture. Upon noticing strong similarities between wine and coffee culture, Takamura were inspired to deepen their knowledge, the result of which is a comprehensive selection of single origin coffees, all roasted on-site. It’s a beautiful, wide open space with a second floor that sometimes plays hosts to events (AeroPress competitions), but otherwise offers some quiet in which to indulge in your choice of beverage.
Slumped back in a vintage leather couch, my thoughts turned towards jumping on the carousel again—I wondered if a glass of wine might restore mental balance, or at least dull the chill in the air. Alas, my legs refused to budge—I sipped gingerly at a pour-over coffee, opened my book. I might have napped. That might have happened. Verily, no reading was accomplished.
Ambling on southward toward Shinsaibashi, I found myself at Mill Pour, a neighborhood espresso bar. Owner Toshiharu Furushou first fell for coffee when lunch at a French restaurant ended with a most memorable espresso shot. The experience eventually lead to Mill Pour, which opened in 2010 with a focus on espresso. Furushou envisions his cafe as a dagashiya, or neighborhood candy store, for adults, and sees coffee as the medium through which people can experience a relaxed moment.
Behind the bar at Mill Pour was Masahiko Fumimoto (or Masa, as he likes to be called), a peaceful, quiet guy with a contagious love for coffee. His career began in 2011, in Melbourne—there the depth of love and appreciation for coffee left upon the young man a strong impression. Though he’s been at Mill Pour since his return, he recently imported a vintage 1968 Probat roaster, and plans to open his own shop, Honeyeaters, in May/June 2015. His hope is to bring a slice of Melbourne coffee culture to Osaka City.
It was refreshing to talk instead of shout over bar music. It was also nice to sip at an americano instead of a glow-in-the-dark gin and tonic. I was in a good place. A part of me considered visiting Osaka Castle, taking some photos, eating some more okonomiyaki—doing the touristy thing. Instead, I opted for the heart of Shinsaibashi, and a tiny roastery cafe known as Lilo Coffee Roasters.
Lilo Coffee Roasters, set up next to the inimitable and eccentric Village Vanguard, is a spin-off of hair stylist Lilo in Veve (a shuffling of the words Life in Love, if you’re curious). The folks at Lilo loved coffee so much they found themselves sharing it with their customers, and from this passion came Lilo Coffee Roasters, their own dedicated coffee space.
Lilo Coffee Roasters’ diverse selection is broken up into three different levels, in which light, medium, and dark roasts are offered for a variety of coffees. It’s a small, intimate location filled with paraphernalia and chatty regulars. Head roaster Keita Nakamura feels the coffee boom taking root in Osaka, and hopes the increased number of cafes means a deeper understanding, and a more dedicated coffee influence on life here.
Lilo was a comfortable spot. The metal-filter pour-over was nice, and the people were cool. But also the shakes had set in. The caffeine levels were perhaps red-lining. I gripped my book with fierce concentration but the words still wavered and shook, taunting like fireflies just beyond reach. In any case, with the afternoon coming to a close, I wandered on a little further south to my last stop—Giracha Coffee.
Giracha Coffee, located between Shinsaibashi and Nanba in Horie, is best thought of as an extension of the Giragira Chariya bicycle shop (and has been profiled in-depth elsewhere on Sprudge). A hangout spot for both staff and customers, it puts the machinery of the once popular Osaka Streamer Coffee in the remnants of a convenience store. It’s a warm, friendly space of latte art, bicycle gear, apparel, and the inimitable Cal Spudvilas—son of the owners, happy-go-lucky mascot, and general boss of Giracha.
With exhaustion pulsing through tired legs, I dragged myself to Shin-Osaka Station, and joined the waves of people traveling home after a Kansai weekend. As I boarded the bullet train, I felt a hint of regret at the coffee shops I still had yet to visit (Cocoo Cafe, All Day Coffee, Elmers Green—next time, I promise). I settled into my seat, reclined it back slightly, and closed my eyes. But it was no good—my body was broken, but my mind danced. At least now, I supposed, I finally had a few hours for my book. However, I instead opened my iPad, looked at the blank screen a moment, and while Osaka scenery flew by in darkness by the window, I typed, “Weekend mornings in Osaka sometimes start hungover in capsule hotels …”
Coutume Osaka is located at Osaka-Shi, Kita-ku, Umeda 1-chome.
Brooklyn Roasting Company is located at Osaka-Shi, Chuo-Ku, Kitahama 2-Chome 1-16.
Takamura Wine & Coffee Roasters is located at Osaka-Shi, Nishi-Ku, Edobori 2-Chome 2-18.
Mill Pour is located at Osaka-Shi, Chuo-Ku, Minami-Senba 3-Chome 6-1.
Lilo Coffee Roasters is located at Osaka-Shi, Chuo-Ku, Nishi-Shinsaibashi 1-Chome 10-28.
Giracha Coffee is located at Osaka-Shi, Nishi-Ku, Minami-Horie 1-Chome 20-20.