Yozo Otsuki from Kurasu: What coffee means to me

Posted by Mitchell Donaldson on 30-09-2015

Coffee has been in my blood ever since I was born in Kyoto, Japan. My mom and dad both owned separate Jazz Kissaten’s (Japanese coffee shops) which were in the heydays at the time, and even though I didn’t enjoy the drink for myself until high school, coffee was always around me – the scent, beans, vintage equipment’s, and atmosphere.

I would remember my mother meticulously pouring filter coffee every morning and afternoons at home. She loved the process and loved serving coffee for others. I feel that love and warmth was conveyed in the brew. To this day, I feel my mom’s brew is the best cup of coffee I can ever have. This habit of brewing was passed on to me while I was a student learning to enjoy the beauties of coffee. I would pour for myself and friends when they would come over. Serving great coffee and sharing my love was part of making friends feel at home and being a good host.

After working in the financial sector for a 4 years in Tokyo and decided to start up a business, coffee had to be in the equation. Kurasu – which means “to live” or “lifestyle” in Japanese, was created as a means to relay the Japanese coffee culture by providing equipment’s and coffee subscription by Japanese roasters to a worldwide audience. Not only functioning as a global online store, education of the Japanese way of home brew is a big part of the business model.

Manual pourover is a common method in Japan where many do so in their own homes. While many specialty roasters and cafes have embraced the pour over method, it’s still not a household name outside of Japan. I’ve heard people equate them to being too hipster or a having to be a coffee snob. Yes, coffee can be something you can devote yourself entirely into – sometimes to a degree of being snobbish. But at the same time, I feel it doesn’t have to be like that.

That’s what I want to be able to show through Kurasu. At least in Japan and how I was raised it’s not like that at all. To me, coffee and pouring is just some thing to relax at home, not worrying about the time and enjoying what you love – chatting with family and friends, or listening to your favorite music.

Using scales, measuring beans, worrying about exact ratios and timing. Yes, that can be a very important factor when brewing, but I feel this maybe one of the reason people are still taken aback by giving pourover a try. When you break it down, making filter coffee isn’t hard or tedious at all. If the instructions are getting in the way and causing stress, I encourage people to try letting it go and just have fun. Not using scales or worrying about the precise measurement, doing what feels right, making mistakes and having a laugh, enjoying the trial and error, and letting your body learn how to brew the way it feels right for you. Like with anything I feel your emotions and state of mind is conveyed into what you make.

In the end, what is coffee to me? Coffee is my passion and it’s what I do right now for a living through Kurasu - spreading the word of Japanese coffee culture and selling beautiful Japanese coffee equipment’s to the world. On a personal level, it’s the process to be able to let go of the hassles or busy work schedule for the day. It’s to enjoy the pour,smell, bloom, and the sound of drip. Moreover, coffee is remembering how my mom brewed for me, and how that experience has shaped me to who I am.

-Yozo Otsuki, kurasu.me