Baristas in Japan brew up a sexy storm

GOOD TASTE: Baristas say the Japanese's sensitive palate and its tea culture have made it easy to grow a coffee culture. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


    Oct 18, 2016

    Baristas in Japan brew up a sexy storm


    NEED a pick-me-up? Try a lychee-flavoured coffee infused with jasmine, or a "Chardonnay" espresso served in a wine glass.

    Whatever your taste, Japan's swashbuckling baristas are bringing some serious sex appeal to the drink.

    In a country famous for its tea, the Japanese are increasingly turning to coffee as a quick-fix to help ease the daily grind.

    Hipster cafes are popping up everywhere, offering exquisitely curated beverages to satisfy even the fussiest of caffeine addicts.

    Japan imports over 430,000 tonnes of coffee a year - behind only the United States and Germany - and boasts some of the world's top baristas.

    "The fact that tea culture already existed in Japan has helped cultivate an appreciation for coffee as a luxury item," said Miki Suzuki after recently being crowned Japan's champion barista.

    "Japanese people have an extremely sensitive palate so they can appreciate subtle differences in flavour," added the 32-year-old.

    Suzuki impressed judges with a nitrogen-charged beverage - a technique often used by craft beer breweries to get a rich froth - which also had delicate citrus tones. For added serving style, she decanted it into champagne flutes.

    "With a flick of the wrist here and a little bit of flair, baristas are making coffee sexy," said award-winning barista Takayuki Ishitani.

    "The performance is part of creating an atmosphere to please the customer," he added between pouring frothy cappuccinos at a trendy surf shop in Tokyo's Daikanyama district.

    The first documented evidence of tea in Japan dates back to the ninth century when Buddhist monks brought it back from China.

    However, coffee became popular in Japan only after World War II, when the country resumed imports.

    Starbucks now peddles its wares in more than 1,000 stores in Japan.

    Bottled and canned coffee sold in vending machines or convenience stores have long been a cheap favourite of the busy salaryman.

    Coffee sales have outstripped those of green tea and hip new hangouts with latte artists sprouting up across Japan could easily be mistaken for New York or London.

    Said American Scott Conary, one of the judges at the Japan Barista Championship: "You're seeing more cafes with better skills and better coffee."

    While Japan's highly ritualised tea ceremony is increasingly seen as a remnant of a bygone age, Ishitani does not take his art too seriously.

    "Just knock it back - it's really something that's there to help the conversation flow."