If you ever find yourself in Japan, you’ll notice the strong coffee culture evidenced by the sheer number of coffee-oriented shops with which you’ll find yourself presented for your drinking and dining pleasure. One of the ubiquitous coffee shop chains in the country, particularly in the Tokyo area, is Excelsior Caffé.
Excelsior Caffé is mainly described as a popular café with an atmosphere conducive to quiet activities like studying or reading while enjoying a good meal or a cup of coffee. It’s impossible to go into the story of Excelsior Caffé without mentioning Doutor Coffee.
Excelsior Caffé was established in 1999 by Doutor Coffee, which itself was a prolific coffee shop chain in Japan and other Asian countries. (I have written an entire article about Doutor coffee here) However, it was a strategic move by Doutor Coffee, allowing it to extend its reach to a portion of the market that its own stores did not touch.
Doutor Coffee, despite its impressive success and powerhouse brand, has established itself as an inexpensive grab-and-go coffee place. Instead of having proper baristas, Doutor Coffee uses machines and does not serve the usual gourmet coffee offerings available at more expensive coffee shops.
You might have already surmised that Doutor Coffee created Excelsior Caffé to offer a more premium option to the public. Its concept involved providing an Italian-style coffee house. This can easily be seen in the modern Italian decor of its stores. Its menu also contains many items from the Italian food and drink culture, including panini, pasta, espresso, etc.
Back in 2000, when Excelsior Caffé was still fairly new, Starbucks, a US-based coffee retailer with a strong following in Japan, noted that the new coffee shop’s logo and interior design were too similar to those of its own. So it filed for a temporary injunction against Doutor Coffee Co. to stop the Japanese company from using its green logo with white block letters and from having its shops’ interior look too much like that of Starbucks stores. These days, the Excelsior Caffé logo has a blue background with an image of a steaming coffee cup in the middle of the oval.
When Doutor Coffee merged with Nippon Restaurant System in 2007, forming Doutor Nichires Co., Ltd., Excelsior Coffee continued to be one of the entities within the corporation that the Doutor Coffee segment ran. One of its most recent operational moves is introducing TABETE, a food-sharing service that allows its users to rescue to-be-discarded but still good food items from dining establishments, at 50 of the Excelsior Caffé stores to avoid food waste.
Consistent with the Doutor tradition, Excelsior Caffé also takes pride in the quality of its coffee and guarantees that high standards are imposed at the very beginning of the process at bean selection. Only the highest quality beans that have passed strict inspection make it to the next stage, direct fire roasting.
Most coffee companies use hot air roasting, which is more practical, but Excelsior Caffé coffee beans are roasted through an open flame method. The same is true for all other coffee brands under the Doutor umbrella. The duration of open flame or direct fire roasting is triple that of hot air roasting, but the results are worth it since you end up with much more aromatic and flavorful beans.
Part of Excelsior Caffé’s good quality standard is coffee bean freshness, hence its introduction of a supply system that ensures only beans in the best condition are used in the stores. It does away with the risk of oversupplying, which could lead to a scenario wherein stores are tempted to use up lingering beans that may have gone past their freshness. This system is based on daily sales records, so the plant doesn’t roast more than the projected amount required by each store.
As far as espresso goes, the store extracts it only after grinding just enough for one cup. It has to be done this way if you want the finely ground coffee powder used for your espresso to be fresh. Grinding beans leads to the coffee losing its freshness, so grinding for espresso and other coffee drinks requiring fine ground powder shouldn’t be done in batches.
Guidelines for Good Coffee
Excelsior Caffé observes certain rules for ensuring it provides a good cup of coffee every time. What does its website say some of these are?
- The more freshly roasted coffee is, the richer the aroma and taste it presents; hence, only serve fresh coffee. Excelsior Caffé urges customers who buy their blends to store them in a closed container and put them in the fridge upon opening, and if it’s coffee powder, to consume it within a week.
- Use the optimum temperature for hot coffee, which is 93 degrees Celsius. This can be achieved by turning off the heat as soon as the water boils and leaving it for around a minute.
- Heed equipment instructions on the amount and coarseness of the ground beans to be used.
- Steam the coffee for 30 seconds to sufficiently bring out the richness of the aroma and the sweetness of the coffee.
- Opt for soft mineral water that has been purified or if there’s no choice but to use tap water, make sure it has been boiled to rid it of the chlorine.
For the moment, Excelsior Caffé is not quite as widespread as Doutor Coffee, with people observing that it has no presence south of Kobe or north of Sendai, but this could easily be remedied in time. If you want to be sure to come across an Excelsior Caffé, it’s sure to be found near major train stations in Central Tokyo.
Excelsior Caffé may be the higher-end sister of Doutor Coffee, but the prices of its offerings are pretty reasonable, more medium-priced than truly expensive. Besides its great quality coffee, you can count on it for very good rice bowls, pasta, and panini. The café is a good place for a quick but enjoyable lunch break or even a lingering one for a relaxed meal or caffeinated studying or reading session.