Tokyo’s coffee scene is deeply ingrained, with impossibly small venues serving up some renowned brews in specialty coffee. Shiro Sasaki is one of the city’s baristas who has become embedded in the steady growth in trade, a role that he has wrapped around international travel. In this interview, Shiro outlines the basis of his progression, providing recommendations to other baristas looking to develop their skills.
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
I started my career as a barista in Tokyo in 2004. It was a very small coffee shop, but the coffee was nice and I was very impressed with it. I traveled, I went to many cafes and I became more fond of coffee. Then I studied coffee in Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand.
What's the status of specialty coffee in Tokyo?
There are many good coffee shops in Tokyo and they are getting better and better. Japan has its own coffee culture and you can easily buy coffee at a vending machine, but I think it's a special time to go to a specialty coffee shop and enjoy coffee while talking with a barista.
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
To know the taste and charm of coffee, I learned not only coffee but also wine and cocktails. In particular, wine has something in common with coffee. Also, for those who like music and those who like talking to people, a coffee shop is a good choice as a barista.
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
First of all, making going to coffee shops part of your daily life. Baristas always welcome you with a smile. You can easily find a lot of information and videos on the internet, but visiting a coffee shop is very important and you will discover something new.
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
I often get information from Sprudge. And, If you are interested in a coffee shop in Tokyo, you should visit Good Coffee. If one day you are free to go abroad, please come to Tokyo!
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
I just started a new coffee shop in Tokyo this August. It's called RAD BROS CAFE. So I want to keep doing that and meet lots of new people and do lots of fun. Years later, I want to start a coffee shop in my hometown. My hometown is in a local place other than Tokyo, which is called Mie.
Follow Shiro on Instagram @shiro_711