Apologies in advance if you aren’t a caffeinated caveman as this information won’t apply to you. However a lot of primal/paleo crowd are also productivity freaks, and coffee features regularly as one of the tools in their toolkit. Now, I’m not gonna go on about it like some of those folk but if you’re into coffee and in Japan then I’ve done the hard work for you and I’m just going to give you the facts, the definitive guide to primal coffee in Japan.
When I first came out to Japan a decade ago, coffee sucked. And this is coming from a guy who grew up on instant (Nescafe Blend 43, although I leveled-up when I moved to Sydney and discovered espresso). Now, a lot of the coffee that sucked back then still sucks now, but I’ve also realised that there are a lot of options out there that aren’t “in your face” like Dotour and can coffee.
So, Dotour and can coffee are pretty much as low as you can go. The latter, despite the fancy branding, always ends up tasting like aluminium, and the former tastes like cigarettes because they can’t work out how to make a smoking room that is fully sealed off from normal people who like fresh air and coffee that tastes like coffee. Having said that, it’s possible that the second-hand salaryman smoke is the only reason people can put down a cup of filth that is a hot blend coffee at Dotour.
Fortunately it’s not all bad. Where some countries (usually those with lots of Italian immigrants) tend to have a well-developed espresso culture, Japan has a well developed drip coffee culture. And while cafes serving proper espresso coffee have had a bit of a boom over the last 10 years or so (not to mention those Nespresso machines that everyone seems to have at home) I still think your best bet is to find a get a decent grinder and either a drip coffee kit or an Aeropress and go from there.
The Goods – Aeropress
I bought an Aeropress kit for the office because I was sick of bad coffee from the company cafeteria, and also because I’m an asshole and wanted to piss people off with an aroma that says “I’m better than you.”
Grinder – The “Porex Mini,” loved by foreigners and Japanese alike
The Goods – UCC Filters and Kalita Drip Kit
For your home drip kit I recommend starting with the filters and working back from there.
UCC filters – just all-round good. Unbleached, well-priced, and I have never had one break on me no matter how rough I am in my half-asleep morning state.
For a grinder/mill I don’t have a specific recommendation as the one I bought is discontinued but anything by Kalita or Hario should pulverise them into lovely brown granules of hot-water-ready love.
The Goods – Beans
My rule of thumb is to choose among the places near where you live who roast their own (hint:「自家焙煎」). If you’re looking for me to do the hard work for you then just order online from these guys: http://cafe-pico-shop.com/
They also have a couple of stores in Tokyo for you to do a walk-in. I recommend their Mandheling Estate (Indonesian) coffee (mixed with a dash of any of their South American beans if you prefer a more balanced flavour), or their “Monzennakacho Blend” if you are making Bulletproof Coffee.
Unfortunately these guys are a little expensive, and I’m still on the lookout for a good “everyday drinker” bulk beans supplier so watch this space (and please add your own suggestion in the comments!)
UPDATE: my quest for an everyday drinker ends in fail. Read about it here.
The Goods – Bulletproof Ingredients
Get your unsalted butter from Hanamasa or any supermarket really. It’s notoriously hard to find details about the methods employed in food production in this country but I doubt they’re doing anything too weird up in Hokkaido to the cows.
For coconut oil I suggest a spoonful of Dr Bronners. Not the cheapest but definitely the most palatable I’ve found.
If you’re looking for a hand mixer anything from the Braun Multiquick range comes recommended (I got the four-piece set because I wanted to be able to make my own mince).