Today we’re happy to interview our friend and partner Kei-san from Japanese Green Tea Co about his new project! Of course, Tea culture is very important in Japan, but did you know Japan also has a strong focus on coffee culture?
After the success of his online Japanese Green Tea shop, Kei-san had the great idea to launch a new website where you can buy “Sumiyaki Coffee”, one of the World’s Rarest Coffees from Japan. Let’s learn more about it!
Hi Kei-san, thank you for your time today! Our readers have already heard about you on our website and social media platforms but could you please introduce yourself again and share a bit about you?
My name is Kei Nishida. I am the CEO of Japanese Green Tea Co.
I am originally from Japan but currently live in Portland, Oregon in the USA.
I started Japanese Green Tea Co. by partnering with Arahataen Tea Farm from Shizuoka, bringing their unique tea grown in sugarcane soil to the USA and the world. Using sugarcane in the soil reduces bitterness and ascendency in tea and is a unique cultivation method even in Japan.
Since the tea was excellent, it created a buzz, and together we won the Global Tea Championship three years in a row in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Our tea is now enjoyed by tens of thousands of people worldwide thanks to the team who work hard to bring superb tea to every customer who loves our tea.
You started to sell Authentic Japanese green tea and Matcha overseas, and you just launched a new online shop about Japanese Coffee. Can you please tell us more about this project? How did you come about this idea?
In 2018, I sent out an April Fool’s joke email to the newsletter subscribers saying that we started selling Japanese Coffee. I thought it was a fun joke to begin as a tea company and move to start selling coffee. The reaction to the email was quite different from what I expected.
So many people asked how they can buy Japanese coffee. I thought they were playing an April Fool’s joke back on me, but they were not. Sumiyaki coffee roasted by charcoal is something people cannot get outside Japan, and people wanted to buy it from me.
I remember that I drank Sumiyaki coffee with my mother when I lived in Japan at a Kissaten (Japanese café) when I was a kid. I used to read a book with my mother at the Kissaten while drinking Sumiyaki Coffee. She said Coffee is not too good for me as a kid, so she only let me sip a bit, but I remembered feeling like an adult sipping a bit of the sweet bitterness.
The taste and my sweet memory flashed back to me as I read people’s emails back on April Fool.
Since then, we have been contacting many Sumiyaki coffee companies in Japan. We were lucky to partner with one of the best Sumiyaki companies in Japan, Sapporo Coffee Kan. Sapporo Coffee Kan has been serving Sumiyaki coffee for 30 years and is rated the top Sumiyaki coffee company in Japan. One of their cafés is next to the famous Sapporo Clock Tower and a popular tourist spot because of the clock and their taste of coffee. You can read more about Sapporo Coffee Kan here.
I was so thrilled to serve not only unique sumiyaki products but the best of the best Sumiyaki Coffee in Japan.
You focused on “Sumiyaki Coffee”, what is it exactly? What makes it different from “regular” Coffee?
Sumiyaki Coffee is Coffee roasted by using Sumi (charcoal).
Usually, coffee roasters worldwide use gas or electricity to roast coffee, but some roasters in Japan specialize in roasting coffee using Sumi charcoal.
It is more expensive and requires both skill and years of experience to roast coffee using charcoal, but it creates unforgettably good coffee.
I wrote a whole article about why sumiyaki coffee tastes good here if you want to read more about it.
Japan has historically used charcoal for cooking in various cuisines, and this method of roasting coffee using Sumi only evolved in Japan.
We can see a wide range of different coffee types on the website. Which one would you personally recommend?
The most popular coffee sold at Sapporo Coffee Kan is European Premium Mild Signature Blend. We priced this product to be the lowest among all other coffee so that more people can try this blend. This blend contains the hint of their “most proud” coffee, which is Indonesia – Arabica Typica – Mandheling Berkat Lintong – Single Origin Premium Coffee.
Sapporo Coffee Kan has an exclusive contract with this farm, and they are the only roaster who can get this coffee in the world. I have seen a video of this farm, and the coffee is grown in the middle of the jungle, so their fertile soil and natural environment are not often seen in other farms. The coffee beans are hand-picked and hand-selected by the farmer, and only a limited quantity can be produced every year.
My personal favorite is Decaffeinated – Premium Blend Coffee. It blends coffee from Colombia, Brazil, and Ethiopia and uses a German, not-too-well-known, decaffeination technology. Before trying it, I never preferred drinking decaffeinated coffee since it usually does not taste as good, but this one was different. When you see the bean, you can tell how much oil is on the surface of the coffee, which I have never seen on other decaffeinated coffee. This coffee was featured by NHK, the Japanese National TV Channel.
We are in the process of documenting this decaffeination technology on the blog. Since we are so new to introducing this amazing coffee, there are so many things about their coffee that I want to share on our blog and site that we just have not gotten time. If anyone wants to be updated about new blog posts, people can subscribe to our newsletter from the footer of our site.
You published three books on the topic of tea, are you going to write something about Coffee now? As coffee lovers at Arigato Japan, we personally would love to read more about this!
Thank you very much for your kind words. Honestly speaking, I am not sure at this point. (yet) I am a total bookworm, so I love books. My mother worked as the assistant to the manga artist Tezuka Osamu, and my uncle owned a publishing company in the past. I am lucky that he often took me to authors’ and comic writers’ houses when I was a kid, and I was so inspired to see their work. Since then, my dream was to publish a book.
I am happy that I have the chance to be able to publish books, but I am wondering if a book is the right medium for me at this point.
As you can imagine, writing a blog is a somewhat similar process to writing a book, except that I get to publish in smaller pieces, and I can get quicker feedback from the reader.
When I make a mistake like a typo, readers kindly let me know, and I can update it right away. (I still have a typo I haven’t been able to correct from the published book shhh..)
I am starting to think that a blog is more fun for the readers too. I can connect similar topics within the article. We have also begun to create some video content on our Youtube Channel that we embed within the blog. I can put readers in the endless entertaining land of tea or coffee (or at least I try to think that’s what I’m doing.) It will probably be hard for me to write a book that can be as entertaining as what I can do with a blog and video at this point. So, I want to focus more on the blog and videos for now and brush up more on my skill in writing before I tackle writing another one.
And because we are a culinary travel company, we need to ask you about your favorite food pairing with Coffee?
I like to drink coffee with Matcha sweets. There are so many different types of matcha sweets these days in Japan, from matcha cookies to matcha chocolate; there are even matcha rice cookers too. I like matcha sweets, but it doesn’t go too well with tea or matcha because, well, it’s too much tea. But they pair very well with coffee, I think. I also get to have an excuse to have tea and coffee at the same time this way.
Is there anything else you’d like to add or any message for our readers?
I am so lucky and so honored to be featured by Arigato Japan here.
The people at Arigato Japan are so nice and kind-hearted.
Arigato Japan knows Japan from angles that most Japanese people do not see or notice. Since I am Japanese, it may sound weird to say this, but I think people from Arigato Japan know Japan better than Japanese people. I always enjoy reading Arigato Japan’s blog posts and content. I had a great time attending their online tour earlier too. At each touch-point, I learned more about Japan in such a pleasant way.
If you are interested in trying out Sumiyaki Coffee, please use coupon code ARIGATO at the checkout, and you get 15% off any items. Please click here to activate the code.
Social Media and Website Links:
Facebook: Japanese Coffee Co
Green Tea Blog: https://www.japanesegreenteain.com/blogs/green-tea-and-health
Coffee Blog: https://japanesecoffeeco.com/blogs/japanese-coffee-blog