The Saredo Motto
This motto is what Kouichi Gondou, the owner/roaster/barista, has stood by ever since he opened Saredo Coffee back in 2013. When roughly translated into English, the motto says “ It’s just coffee but still is coffee. I’d rather have something tasty if possible. Even the better if there’s something particular about the coffee. “
Saredo Coffee is a roaster cafe located in the Ropponmatsu area of Fukuoka just nearby the Gokoku Shrine.
The warming personality of Gondo-san, together with his love and passion for finding fair traded/sustainable coffee as well as the importance placed on being honest with his customers have propelled Saredo Coffee as the go-to third wave cafe in Fukuoka.
It seems that Gondo-san places importance in three major aspects:
1. Finding great coffee which are sustainable/fair-traded/organic and communicating such information to customers
2. Creating a relaxed, comforting and serene space within the cafe
3. Giving his all for customers and the community
How appropriate given his long association with Starbucks.
That Starbucks Life
Gondo-san began his long association with coffee through Starbucks. Yes, he worked his way up the Starbucks ladder, and also got promoted to assistant manager. Working at Starbucks, Gondo-san had ample opportunities to get acquainted with coffee of various origins, as well as finding a voice in communicating the flavour profiles to customers. His love and passion for Starbucks ran deep and that’s why he poured 10 years of his life into it.
Although the experience at Starbucks was fantastic, something was missing. That knowledge and understanding by actually roasting and extracting coffee with your own hands. In other words, the freedom to manage one’s own roaster cafe was lacking.
There then came a decisive point in Gondo-san’s life. The choice to continue his life at Starbucks where he could gain promotion as store manager, or leave and start something of his own.
Well, we know what happened.
Finding Great Coffee with a Story
The coffee you find at Saredo Coffee are not just great. They carry an unfathomable amount of emotion, passion and care.
Gondo-san only puts his hands on great coffee with a story. In other words, he knows where exactly they are grown and how they are processed, dried, transported, as well as maintained from the coffee farm to his hands.
This means that the coffee he obtains are traceable and transparent, a very important factor when considering specialty coffee. It also means that the people who’ve been associated from seed to cup have their labor rights as well as human rights protected without any illegal going-ons.
He takes great care in providing such information for his customers.
Gondo-san also tries to find organic coffee; coffee plants grown with less or almost no chemical fertilisers which is much healthier to the environment as well as for people.
Another great thing is providing decaf specialty coffee for pregnant moms and customers who can’t have caffeine. It’s only very recently that decaf coffee is starting to get around the minds of many cafes/roaster cafes in Japan.
Such attention and dedication placed on finding great coffee which are fair traded/organic certified as well as healthier for customers is what makes Saredo Coffee stand out as one of the leading third wave cafes of Fukuoka.
The Importance of Pairings
Coffee Pairings can be an art like wine. Sparks fly when you find that one special dessert – be it a biscuit/cookie, pastry or bread – which marries incredibly well with the coffee at hand.
You’ll find a “Surprise me” pairing suggestion on the menu; you choose the dessert and Gondo-san will pair that with a coffee that combines really well together.
Even if you opt to just go for the coffee, it’ll come with a cute little home-made biscuit/cookie.
Gondo-san also comes up with new desserts as well as drinks (like Sakura Latte and Drinking Affogato) and so you’ll always have the opportunities to enjoy new pairings.
One thing you have to try is his cafe latte. All of his experience and training as a barista together with the emotions involved in making this simple espresso beverage is simply amazing.
The Struggles of Roasting
Gondo-san didn’t have a roaster master to learn from. He had to learn everything about roasting from scratch all by himself. He’s roasted for several years now, but he still thinks he has a lot to learn.
He attends the National Roasting Championship annually; he still hasn’t gone to the finals, but Gondo-san plans to retire the championships once he makes it into the finals. I’m sure he’ll stand on the finals stage very soon though; fingers crossed.
One thing that’s certain is that he has many fans. His customers, friends, as well as small businesses have kept buying his beans and sustaining his cafe.
And this is definitely a sign that he’s going in the right direction in terms of roasting.
Gondo-san also gives back to his community. An earthquake struck Kumamoto during the spring this year. He immediately set up a donation box, as well as sending 10% of his Ice Coffee Liquid sales for the victims in Kumamoto. This isn’t the only time he’s shown such altruism.
Saredo Coffee is really a roaster cafe that represents the community.
It’s very exciting to see how far this roaster cafe will go in the next few years, as well as the impact it’ll have on the whole coffee community in Ropponmatsu as well as Fukuoka.
If you come down to Fukuoka, take a short trip to Ropponmatsu and have an amazing time at Saredo Coffee. You won’t regret it.
Address: Fukuoka Prefecture, Fukuoka, Chuo Ward, Ropponmatsu, 3−11−33, 101
Open Hours: 11:00 ~ 20:00 (Closed on Wednesdays)
What to try the first time: Maroyaka Blend + Cheese Tart, Mandheling Blue Linton + Financier
Other awesome coffee & drinks to try: Guji Ethiopia, Horoniga Blend, Caffe Latte, Coffee Jelly Parfait