After returning from an eight day trip of fun and exploration in Japan, once again, I am amazed by the level of quality in the independent shop hiding in the streets of Japan. For many shops, "hand-roasted" coffee is the norm, and although only a few shops have an offering list that goes beyond the norm, what they do with their coffee produces fantastic results.
My wife, Yiching, spent many hours searching out and locating good coffee houses for us to try and while there were not any outright disappointments, there were some revelations and quite a few winners. And they were winners for the same reason quality shops here are: Quality fresh roasted coffee, and an understanding and control of the brewing process.
I will make a longer post later regarding the various shops, but the winner of the trip was a small coffee bar called "Rivage" in Osaka. Fresh Roasted coffee, weighed and fresh ground for each cup, fresh brewed with precise timing and flame control using siphon (vacuum) brewers. Yiching and I had four cups between us, all were excellent. The thing that stuck out the most for me was the weighing of beans, and after tasting the cup (in comparison to other shops) knowing that the barista understood the proper grind to bring out the flavor, rather than just having a grinder and tossing the beans in and returning a poor result due to an incorrect grind. The more control over the cup, from bean to barista, the better the cup... and it's proved accurate everywhere I've been.
I'm looking forward to the upcoming changes in the caffe, and the continued challenge of making each cup better than the last.