I have a video of Blue Bottle pour over circa 2003 at the Ferry Building in SF. It’s awesome, and raw. Huge line. Sternos and cheap kettles. 40g coffee per 8oz cup (an enormous dosing). A spoon stirring the grounds. Splashes and spills.
And I’ve watched Blue Bottle evolve and expand. I’d heard that Tokyo was a part of that story but I hadn’t experienced it until our trip.
And while the Blue Bottle I know is there (New Orleans iced coffee here) it’s very different in many ways. I think the new Blue Bottle in Harvard Square might be influenced a bit by the Japanese version. But it doesn’t go all the way.
When I told George Howell I was going to be visiting Japan and wanted to taste the coffee he said his impression is that Japanese high end coffee culture is heavy on ceremony, less focused on taste. I think this largely played out in what we saw (though we had an absolutely killer Kenyan coffee at Omnibus that still haunts me with it’s peachy memory).
This iced coffee for example was made in front of us. The iced coffee (I’m assuming cold brew with chicory) was from a tap. But it was poured into a tall glass with square iced cubes and a stir stick. Then the cream and “NOLA syrup” was added (maybe the chicory is in the syrup?). It was something more like a craft cocktail bar. Nothing I’ve seen at Blue Bottle USA.
This was also the most “American” coffee we had. Most of the Japanese craft coffee shops made a coffee that was more akin to tea, almost reddish clear in color, and very very lightly flavored, what we might consider watery.