When you order a cup of coffee, would you rather have it to go or do you prefer staying at the café? In Japan, to have a cup of coffee means a lot more than just to drink a beverage. That is one of the reasons that you do not see many people walking down the street having coffee in a cup holding it with their hands. Japanese people take time to stay and enjoy the atmosphere and show the gesture of their respect and appreciation to the person who prepares and brew a cup for us.
Kaori Yonemori started the café Bochi-bochi seven years ago in Kagoshima, Japan. Bochi-bochi means “little-by-little, gradually, and slowly” in Japanese. As you can tell by the name of the café, time runs quite slowly in this place. At the entrance, she writes a welcome message on the black board which says, “please take your time and enjoy your coffee”. Although the cafe does offer the coffee to go, I have never seen a customer order it. People come here not only to have a coffee, but also to spend a time and enjoy the surroundings of this place.
Yonemori brews coffee in the neru (short for “flannel” in Japanese), a filter which is made of thick cloth. She brews one cup at the time. The way of brewing the neru-dripped coffee is similar to what you do to a regular pour-over coffee, but compared to a paper filter, the neru needs a great amount of coffee beans to brew a small quantity of coffee. Since the coffee goes through the thick cloth filter, it takes a while to drip all the coffee into the pitcher. This process creates the strong aroma and smoothness of the coffee. Yonemori chooses a cup and saucer, pre-heats the cup and coffee pitcher, and prepares and serves everything with great care. Every process of making a cup of coffee, she does with her feeling of caring and gratitude.
Her process of preparing and brewing coffee with great care reminds me the spirit of “sado”, which is a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The spirit of sado is based on Zen philosophy, which became popular in Japan during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). The tea ceremony is considered to be a generalized art form, and the master not only to serve green tea to the guest, but also pays extra attention to art of tea tools, art works placed in the tea room, and even to the garden. From that time period, Japanese people have considered the act of drinking as something ritual. And I think drinking a cup of coffee at the cafe is the modern version of the ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony.
It is just a cup of coffee, you might think. But Bochi-bochi offers a lot more than a cup of coffee. If you once experience the aroma and the taste of the Japanese neru-dripped coffee, with all warmhearted hospitality, you would be willing to take much time to enjoy a cup of coffee. And the coffee comes with the complete package: special cups, furniture, paintings, and even the view from the window. If you put yourself into that comfortable atmosphere, you may understand why Japanese people care about all the small details and want to take time to enjoy to sip the coffee. Drinking coffee is not just getting caffeine into your system. Once the drink is served with the whole package, the coffee could become the special drip that could re-charge your soul.