COFFEEMAN: The Beginning Of a Roaster Cafe After A Decade Of Long Waiting
Takaomi Eguchi opened COFFEEMAN in the back streets of Ropponmatsu Fukuoka in February of 2016.
Together with the neighboring bakery Matsupan(マツパン), Eguchi-san has stirred up the local scene with the Coffee and Bread concept that’s brought in tremendous excitement and buzz, not just around Ropponmatsu but the whole city.
It took Eguchi-san about a decade from apprenticeship to store manager to finally opening his own roaster cafe. With an appetite of success and a work horse mentality, I just can’t wait to see how much COFFEEMAN will grow as a local roaster cafe representing the coffee scene of Japan.
A Lineage Of Dedicated Roasters
Takaomi Eguchi started out working as a barista at a local Japanese roaster cafe. Back then, there wasn’t much of an option if you wanted to learn about coffee and everything associated with it. You had to work under a roaster cafe and gain experience.
Through dedication and persistence, he soon gained promotion to the store manager.
He also had the opportunity to work as the store manager at Toukadou Coffee (豆香洞), a well renowned roaster cafe synonymous with the word ‘roasting’. The owner there has been a national and world roasting champion and is a major voice in the coffee scene of Japan.
I have a feeling they both have something in common.
Dedication towards whatever it is that they pour their life into day in and day out.
This dedication is probably what led to Eguchi-san winning the National Roasting Championship in 2014.
You can find the trophy on the shelf in front of the counter at COFFEEMAN. It shows and maybe reminds Eguchi-san of what he’s been able to achieve and the fact that there’s still so much more he could achieve.
The Translator of Roasting
Eguchi-san is pretty much a translator of roasting. The way he’s been able to translate roasting into something understandable for his customers is genius.
Since it’s quite difficult to explain cinnamon roast, city roast, french roast and other terms roasters usually associate with, he’s devised a simple numerical ordering system when referring to roast degrees.
The lower the number, the lighter the roast. The higher the number, the darker the roast.
For example, the 3.8 blend is lighter in roast when compared to 6.8 Autumn blend.
Speaking of the 6.8 Autumn blend, the picture above shows the blend and the three flavor profiles (nutty, chocolaty, berry) and characteristics (enveloping sweetness, soft/sweet bitterness, round body/mouthfeel) he associates with to create the blend. The diagram is just another aspect of the meticulous nature and dedication Eguchi-san puts into translating the esoteric nature of roast and taste profiles.
His openness about coffee, pairings and just about anything is a huge welcome for people who don’t know much about coffee. He knows how to get you enthusiastic and immersed in the beautiful world of coffee. Perhaps his title should also include ‘coffee concierge’.
Don’t get me started on the blends. It’s quite literally mind-blowing.
Because of the work put into perfecting them. Perhaps they are not perfect in Eguchi-san’s eyes. But it’s goddamn close enough.
The 3.8 blend is the lightest of all the blends he serve. His vision for this blend is the coffee he experienced while he was attending the World Roasting Championship in Sweden. There’s a little description about the blend; one word about the mouthfeel that stands out is Wataame(わたあめ) which refers to cotton candy in Japanese. The body or mouthfeel of the coffee really resembles cotton candy and it’s light as silk. This blend reminds me of winter and old cobblestone streets for some reason.
6.4 blend is kind of the house blend of COFFEEMAN. The first Chinese character of Ropponmatsu (六本松) represents the number six, while the street COFFEEMAN is situated at is four. So it pretty much makes a lot of sense, and the roast range also matches the number. How fitting.
I was blown away with this blend the first time I tried it. Actually, I get blown away every single time I try it. There’s a point between dark roast and medium roast which is usually referred to medium-dark roast or Chuubukairi (中深煎り) in Japanese. A lot of people believe that this is the roast point where the flavors of coffee are at its most complex and diverse. It sort of gives your taste buds a rollercoaster ride of complex flavors.
It seems that Eguchi-san has tried to create a blend using coffee which are most suitable for this roast point. It’s absolutely delicious and goes really well with any kind of pairing.
Blends are something that define the skills of a roaster. With unlimited combinations of single origins and roasts to choose from, it can seem like an impossible puzzle to find that right blend and taste one envisions. The blends Eguchi-san has created are a work of an artisan and he’ll probably keep refining and improving on them in search of perfection.
Although I only talk about blends here, his single origins are also amazing and you should definitely give them a try. I particularly adore his 7.8 Indonesia Sumatra. So sweet and clear, yet I get the full characteristics of the earthiness and chocolaty flavor profiles.
Refining the pour over
The pouring style at COFFEEMAN is quite unique. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it, or at the very least I would never have thought of trying it.
Since it doesn’t have a name I’ll call it the pour and drop method. The extraction time is much longer than what you expect since small quantities of hot water is poured and then extracted. The next pour only comes after the last of the previous pour drops. I’m guessing that the temperature is lower, and the grinds coarser if I look back to the extraction guide.
The resulting coffee is clean, clear and crisp. It’s the perfect platform to highlight blend characteristics (the same goes for single origins) without fogging up one’s palate. Perhaps a coarser grind means less fines which result in less over extraction. Also, the longer extraction time could possibly get rid of most CO2 gas produced by the coffee.
After winning the Roasting Championship, I can’t help but wonder whether Eguchi-san is refining his pour over method to compete and win in the National Brewers Championship/National Hand drip Championship. I guess I’ll start believing instead of wondering.
Work Horse Mentality And Meticulous Nature
Eguchi-san is a true work horse. He never sleeps, or at least I just can’t imagine how he gets time to rest. He’s open from 8 am to 8 pm, and he also makes time to roast his coffee beans. His dedication towards his craft is just amazing.
The meticulous nature of Eguchi-san is also very apparent; from the miniature COFFEEMAN sign board by the pavement, the jumping jacks by the entrance and counter, the many test tubes lined up beside the Giesen roaster, to the cupping sets by the utensil table. I guess they all have a reason and an objective in Eguchi-san’s mind.
Such aspects are why he excels at what he does. I don’t think I’ve met so many people like him.
I’m glad I did.
If you have the chance to visit Fukuoka, drop by COFFEEMAN for some amazing coffee. There’s also bread (from the neighboring bakery マツパン) that’s been specially made to accompany his coffee. Eguchi-san will give you a proper run down of which bread to have with what coffee.
The atmosphere is serene, with a faint classical music in the background. The interior is simple and humble; also look closely and see the little things which have been meticulously prepared to complement the vibes.
This place is worth going to for any coffee novice, as well as anyone looking to discover more about coffee. Put it in your bucket list and you won’t regret it.
Address: 4-5-23 Ropponmatsu Chuo-ku Fukuoka City, Fukuoka, Japan
Open Hours: 8:00 – 20:00 (Tuesdays to Sundays)
What to try the first time: The 6.4 Blend ( You can also choose/ask for a bread pairing from the bakery next door )