Japan has been often characterized as a tea country and for a good reason. However, it is also a country that embraced coffee as a drink for the get-go and is always looking for new ways to stay relevant and be innovative within the coffee industry.
In today's article, we are going to explore Japan’s presence on the coffee world stage and how third-wave coffee has inspired a new generation to represent the country in world coffee events.
We are going to talk about the meaning of third-wave coffee, the birth of the Speciality Coffee Association of Japan, and how Japan has ranked in coffee competitions worldwide. So get ready to be impressed because the Japanese are not only masters of tea brewing, they can also make a delicious cup of coffee!
What is Third Wave Coffee?
You have probably heard the term “third wave coffee” in many modern coffee shops but the real question is how does it differ from the first and second wave coffee. Well, simply put third-wave coffee focuses on quality and transparency throughout the lifecycle of the coffee bean.
The first wave was all about convenience, instant coffee was preferred because it was cheap and easy to make. The second wave focused on experience. Shops like Peet’s coffee and Starbucks popped up, offering a relaxing coffee shop environment with great ambiance and a wide range of newly invented coffee drinks.
In the last few decades the third wave of coffee has entered our lives and this time it’s all about quality. This wave emerged during the 1980s with the founding of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). A few years later we see the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE) joining the SCAA as one organization, the SCA.
The birth of the Speciality Coffee Association
The Speciality Coffee Association is a not-for-profit association with the goal to make coffee better. It’s membership-based and organizes many initiatives revolving around all things coffee. Many events like the annual barista camp, roasters camp, world coffee competitions, and exhibitions are organized by the SCA with the purpose of connecting the industry.
Aside from this, the SCA also offers certified professional courses in coffee roasting, brewing, sensory and more. These days, many countries around the world have their own chapter of SCA, and Japan is, of course, one of them.
Speciality Coffee Association of Japan
In 1987, the Gourmet Coffee Association of Japan was founded to spread awareness around coffee throughout the country. After twelve years of successful work it changed its name to Specialty Coffee Association of Japan (SCAJ) and organized the first World Specialty Coffee Conference and Exhibition in the country.
Since then, the SCAJ has come to be the number one organization that represents the specialty coffee community of Japan through various initiatives, events, exhibitions, educational courses, research, and competitions.
Here are the competitions the SCAJ currently organizes:
● Japan Barista Championship
● Japan Siphonist Championship
● Japan Latte Art Championship
● Japan Cup Tasters Championship
● Japan Coffee in Good Spirits Championship
● Japan Coffee Roasting Championship
● Japan Brewers Cup
What’s more, the SCAJ works to represent Japan's coffee presence abroad in various world coffee events, competitions, and exhibitions. All the winners of the above competitions take part in world coffee competitions. In fact, Japan has had many successes in such competitions.
Japan in World Coffee Competitions
World coffee competitions are events held every year in different countries around the world and showcase the skills of coffee professionals. The first World Barista Championship was held in 2000 in Monte Carlo and ever since then, more and more baristas started to take part and represent their country.
Japan has had competitors in the top 5 of the world barista championship in 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2016, and 2017 while in 2014 Hidenori Izaki won first place for Japan representing Maruyamacoffee Co., Ltd. in the finals in Rimini, Italy.
What’s more, World Coffee Events named Japan the best performing nation for the 2013 coffee competitions. That year, Hisako Yoshikawa came in first place at the World Latte Art Championship and Naoki Goto took first place in the same year’s World Coffee Roasting Championship.
Japan also performed well in the World Cup Tasters Championship that year, with Risa Sasaki winning second place. Then in 2016 Tetsu Kasuya also brought a big win for Japan when he won first place at the World Brewers Cup, held in Dublin, Ireland.
Other SCAJ activities
So you can tell that Japan is one of the top competing countries in world coffee events! Apart from these competitions the SCAJ always strives to innovate in the coffee industry by organizing various activities and educational courses. For example:
SCAJ Show - during this exhibition a lot of representatives of the coffee industry exchange information about specialty coffee, coffee machines and coffee-related equipment and products, and new innovative ideas.
Coffee Meister - this is a training course offered by the SCAJ since 1999. The purpose of the course is to train professional business people regarding the coffee industry and help them navigate the coffee business.
Seminars & Workshops - in the scope of improving coffee techniques and extraction quality, the SCAJ organizes various seminars and workshops to promote understanding of coffee as a consumed good. Such activities are cup tastings and educational seminars on coffee-producing countries.
What the future holds
Japan is a country that respects tradition and celebrates its customs but as we can see it’s also a country that strives for innovation and modernity. Japanese people have always known that the secret of success is to not look for it but to love what you do, dedicate yourself to your craft, and always look for ways to improve.
It is then no wonder that a so-called tea nation has embraced the art and craft of coffee making to such a degree that it produces champions every couple of years. It is exciting to think of what the future holds for Japan’s presence on the coffee world stage and we are sure that we will be impressed.
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