Japan’s coffee culture runs surprisingly deep with a mixed history of false starts and rebirths. The new Japan Daily series, “Coffee Meets Culture” looks to explore this vibrant and fast-growing industry.
And what better place to start than with a recap of Japan’s biggest coffee event of the year!
“Come Join the Specialty Coffee Community”
The Specialty Coffee Association of Japan just concluded the 2022 edition of its World Specialty Coffee Conference and Exhibition. This three-day international event is one of the largest of its kind and certainly the biggest in tea-dominated Asia. The mission is simple. SCAJ’s branding for this year is, “Come Join the Specialty Coffee Community”.
It is the second consecutive year the SCAJ was able to host this event since the pandemic, and the early numbers of attendees for 2022 indicate an attendance of more than double the year before. In addition to the over 44,000 visitors, about 200 hundred exhibitors from over 40 countries and regions represented this year’s coffee community at Tokyo Big Sight.
“A Fair and Trade Show”
The predictable headliners, like Hario, La Marzocco, Nuova Simonelli, and Kalita brought in the crowds with their elaborate stages and newest products on display. But those shiny espresso machines are not just for show. Vendors and attendees alike are able to test out nearly everything on the exhibition floor. A general admission ticket is ¥1200 or about $10USD which is a very good deal considering that ticket holders can test espresso machines more expensive than an average car, taste an almost limitless amount of coffee or tea based drinks, and even practice latte art from industry professionals.
Speaking of professionals, the bulk of the SCAJ “community” is undoubtedly the third-wave coffee roasters and proprietors–some of whom even compete in a variety of coffee-related disciplines. In fact, most of the exhibitors this year come from smaller specialty shops from all over the country. These shops look to attract specific followers who share similar preferences in both what’s in the mug and the mug itslef along with original merchandise or other products. You can try a Hot Snow latte from Hokkaido or a refreshing Sanpin (Jasmine) tea from Okinawa and everything in between!
“Bean to Cup”
No instant packets here. We’re talking about specialty coffee afterall. While the center area dedicates its floor space to showcasing the hardware and artisanal aspect of the coffee community, the periphery is where you can find the source of it all–the beans. More importantly, you can meet, learn from, and connect with the people directly responsible for farming and distributing some of the most delicious and exotic coffee beans in the world.
The World Specialty Coffee Conference and Exhibition is without a doubt a tradeshow, but the other purpose for organizing this event is to promote equitable practices, sustainable solutions, and carbon-negative initiatives in a historically exploitative and wasteful industry. It was a hopeful thing to notice how the SCAJ sought to highlight more eco-friendly, fair, and future-thinking brands, but it will be interesting to see how these efforts can translate to the sustainability and diversity of the community in the future.