Author: Audrey Fiodorenko

Tokyo Kissaten Picks

It was about last year that I’ve started looking into the roots of café culture. While it is always exciting to find a new coffee shop before anyone else, I feel the same kind of excitement of finding a local-only café that has been preserved for hundred years. Kissaten, an old-style Japanese coffee house, is a great example of Tokyo deep-rooted passion for quality coffee. Hidden away from any sunlight, kissaten is all about you, the master and a cup of coffee. Here are the Curiosity’s three picks of top-notch kissatens in Tokyo: OLD AND NEW | Kayaba Coffee   Kayaba coffee is a fusion of ancient and modern. Located in Yanaka’s Kototoi-dori behind Ueno Park, this kissaten has been running for over 70 years. The building itself is a worth-seeing spot as it was built during the World War I in the so-called “old downtown” of Tokyo. The coffee house has survived the earthquakes and the air raids during the War and exterior remained unchanged to this day. However, the true charm of this …

Crowdfunding saves the UK’s first black bookshop

New Beacon Books is the first ever black bookshop not only in Islington, but in the whole UK, selling books written by black authors. New Beacon Books opened its doors in 1966 and it created a platform for African-Caribbean independent literature. The family-run shop was becoming a victim of the gentrification and it was about to close due to pressures from e-retailers such as Amazon. However, the bookshop managed to receive more 11,000 pounds in less than one month with crowdfunding and its owners are keen to keep the business running. Janice, founder’s daughter, has been sitting at this till since 1970s. She runs a shop with the help of her sun Ronaldo, son’s wife Vanessa, Vanessa’s mother and grandchildren. She says: “It is a family business in every sense.” But even if they needed extra help, Janice admits that a shop could not afford new staff members. She keeps very close relationship with customers and authors. “Engagement is crucial in an independent shop,” – she says. Mumar Toure (above, on the right) is one of the most loyal customers in …

OPINION: Brexit and London Architecture

Whether Britain will continue being a key player in shaping contemporary architecture and design mainly depends on the terms it reaches with Europe.   The Shard, a glittering spike of glass soaring into the sky, the new Tate extension, a twisted, off-kilter pyramid are just a few examples of incredible architecture in London. These masterpieces are not only iconic buildings that go to the heart of British identity but they just happen to have been designed by European architects. The rise of modern architecture in the late 20th Century in the UK was greatly fuelled by the open borders. While the world was shrinking, ideas were spreading across Europe. Now it seems like Britain is doomed to travel back in time to isolate itself with thousand of copycat rows of Victorian houses and Prince Charles’ beloved ‘traditional’ architecture. There is no beating about the bush. “Leaving the EU would mean the ‘Guernseyfication’ of the UK, which would then be a little country on the world scale. It would isolate itself and become a trading post …

London Coffee Festival with Shinsaku Fukayama

Londoners had a chance to get over-caffeinated once again in the annual London Coffee Festival which is the largest of its kind in the world. It celebrates coffee culture by gathering the best baristas and hosting coffee shops from all around the Europe under one roof. The festival invites customers to learn about the basics of cupping, how to roast, brew at home or pour a beautiful latte art. It has also featured major demonstrations from world-class baristas and latte art masterclasses. Coming all the way from Australia, Shinsaku “Shin” Fukayama is one of the most anticipated guests in this year’s London Coffee Festival. His journey in coffee industry has started four years ago in St Ali, one of the most famous specialty coffee shops in Australia, and by now he is known as a World Latte Art Champion. Shin rushed to London straight after Australian Latte Art Championship where he took the second place. In Latte Art Live shows, Shin amazed crowds by free-pouring his original latte designs – a monkey, an astronaut and …

Greeting Spring in Kew Gardens

“Landscapes of great wonder and beauty lie under our feet and all around us. They are discovered in tunnels in the ground, the heart of flowers, the hollows of trees, fresh-water ponds, seaweed jungles between tides, and even drops of water. Life in these hidden worlds is more startling in reality than anything we can imagine. How could this earth of ours, which is only a speck in the heavens, have so much variety of life, so many curious and exciting creatures? — Walt Disney All photos were taken with Minolta XD

Curiosity’s Guide to Minimalism

While minimalism sounds like a distant term, it is actually a fusion of ideas, from ancient times to modern days.  Here’s the list of minimalist wisdom throughout the different concepts: Epicureanism is an early example of minimalist thinking in Ancient Greece. Epicurus tells us that wisdom is the knowledge of which pleasures are good for us. Ask of each thing is it necessary. According to Epicurus, the essentials for happiness should be maintained at minimal cost, while all things beyond should be taken in moderation or avoided. Buddhism tells us how to incorporate minimalism into our life. It teaches that we shouldn’t be attached to things as everything is temporary in nature. Buddhism is also related to mindfulness which means being fully aware and not judging. Or as Rick Hanson in his book Buddha’s Brain puts it, mindfulness is the doorway to taking in good experiences and making them a part of yourself. The idea of simplicity is deeply rooted in Japanese Wabi-Sabi philosophy. It inspired the minimalist architecture in the 20th Century, such as …

Tiny Wonders of Coffee in Tokyo

In between Tokyo’s mile-high skyscrapers, a million passengers pass through every day without recognising each other. This extremely fast pace slows down in coffee shops, the smaller the better. A coffee shop with no more than three stools doesn’t invite you for lingering but rather for a short personal experience. Facing a barista and a fellow caffeine-thirsty customer surely loosens up the atmosphere and leaves you randomly chatting about what brings you here. This time I am settling down in tiny coffee shops with serious-minded coffee makers. … COFFEE AND ICE CREAM | Little Nap Coffee Stand On the back side of Yoyogi park, Little Nap Coffee Stand is not easy to find but people make their way to this side of Tokyo just to sip its coffee. Having featured in many publications, this coffee shop is a popular destination for tourists, both Japanese and foreigners. Little Nap Coffee Stand is run by Daisuke Hamada and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he is one of the most recognised baristas in Tokyo. Hamada is involved in every aspect of running a …

Slowing Down the Pace – Minka Cafe

First-time travellers to Japan usually choose Kamakura, the small version of Kyoto, just one hour away by train from Tokyo centre. Traditional century-aged Zen temples, the Great Buddha statue and Edo period small alleys every year attract thousands of tourists to the city. But those who search for the true roots of Zen in the former de facto capital find themselves in the West part of the town, Kita-Kamakura. Despite being a home to three of the five highest-ranking Zen temples, this part of the town dwells with tranquility without a trace of mass tourism. *** While you would easily find the way to temples here without a map, Minka Cafe is hidden like a well-kept secret in Kamakura’s greenery. In Japanese, a word Minka describes the type of traditional Japanese house building style which could still be found in the countryside. Yet Kita-Kamakura’s Minka represents a literal meaning of the term – houses of the people – which kindly accommodates anyone who steps inside.     The place fills up with customers very quickly as soon as it opens. Usually locals or nearby-living moms with toddlers settle for a conversation and …

Most Impressive Cafe Designs – Tokyo

I have always described Japan as a country of perfection, from manners to dedication. Visiting Tokyo for the third time, I was not surprised to encounter extraordinary hospitality and a sacred-like coffee preparation. While quality was exceptional in most of the cafes, I was rather deeply moved by the creativity and the design of some coffee shops I came across. Whereas coffee quality is the top priority, cafes in Tokyo go one step further to improve customers’ experience. Japanese minimalistic architecture mixed with Western influences inspired designers and coffee lovers to transform industrial and residential space into impressive designs. This time I focus on eye-catching café designs in Tokyo. Here’s the top five. KI CAFE Hidden one station away from Shimokitazawa, a commercial and entertainment district in Setagaya, Ki Café invites Tokyoites to run away from the crowd to a mesmerizing white forest. Ki Café is a true fusion of modernism and minimalism somewhere in between zen philosophy and urban city. No surprise that this little coffee shop has made to top 10 best designed …

Coffee Market is Full of Beans as Trading Price is Dropping

The UK’s coffee market has been steadily expanding with an increasing number of imports, International Coffee Organization’s latest figures reveal.  “Britain is moving from nation of tea drinkers to what now is becoming a nation of coffee drinkers,” – said Jeffrey Young, managing director of Allegra Strategies. The UK coffee-shop business is booming with about 2 billion coffees drunk in the UK out of home each year from more than 18,000 outlets. The number of shops is set to grow to almost 21,000 by 2020, according to Allegra Strategies, research consultancy. Britain’s growing passion for coffee means constantly increasing demand for coffee import, which is eventually expected to lead to the expansion of the industry by at least 6% a year. However, Jeffrey Young is skeptical about Trading Economics forecast: “That contradicts a lot of data that we have collected. Their forecast might be true in the short-term but our predictions are that in the long-term prices will increase in specialty coffee.” He points the fundamental shortage of coffee to be one of the major reasons for future trading price hike. “The long-term dynamics …

A Shot of Summer — Iki Espresso

  Following the Aussie coffee culture, Iki espresso serves generous cups of excellent coffee in the centre of Chigasaki. This coffee stand is a successor of Allpress that is originally based in New Zealand, where coffee culture is said to be one of the best in the world. Allpress roasters opened their mega successful stores in cities such as London and Melbourne and very recently they expanded with a branch in Tokyo. Iki espresso embodies the idea of coffee stand with a look of abandoned coffee warehouse. Minimalistic concrete interior, a great collection of Kinfolk magazines and Off Season newspapers make you feel like out of Japan. No need to say about coffee as Allpress roaster is already acknowledged and loved by millions of people around the world. With the help of La Marzocco, Allpress roasted beans and creamy milk, Iki Espresso latte will never be enough. The coffee shop has been opened for more than two years and recently they have got something exciting behind the counter. Rapidly gaining popularity among Tokyo trendy coffee shops, coffee tonic is said to …

Discovering Beauty in White Forest

In this simple, pure space a guest can savour his coffee and let his mind flow in tranquility. The minimalism culture that had been nurtured in Japan since ancient times has adapted modern influences in Tokyo. Ki Café is a true fusion of modernism and minimalism somewhere in between zen philosophy and urban city. Hidden one station away from Shimokitazawa, a commercial and entertainment district in Setagaya, Ki Café invites Tokyoites to run away from crowd to a mesmerizing white forest. Ki (木) means ‘tree’ in Japanese and details of it can be seen around the shop. While most of the design magazines describe Ki as cafe with an abstract tree theme, it is much more than that. According to the owner, Yuko, the main inspiration is ‘white’, which spreads tranquility and at the same time invites to reach a mental state of no-mind (無心). At the entrance, you will be asked to take off your shoes as if you enter a sacred space. There is no music in the background. No excessive details either. …

Simplicity Equals Perfection

Late Sunday morning in Tokyo. Yesterday’s black suits-filled streets are empty. But this emptiness breathes another life into the alleys. My fingertips are craving to feel the touch of natural linen in Shimokitazawa’s Fog store. The nostalgic ‘made in Lithuania’ label shortens the distance between Europe and Asia in seconds. The sun reaches its peak and I start wandering around quiet streets of Setagaya. I settle in minimalistic café, which offers me a cup of heart-warming coffee and homemade years-mastered anpan*. Wake up. You are not in Tokyo. You’ve just found a small patch of Japan in Ealing Broadway. … Tucked away in West London, Ealing has become popular with Japanese community. Loads of Asian restaurants offering sushi and bento are cheaper than Central but still too pricey for my pocket. But when it comes to coffee and sweet delights I always manage to loosen my budget – those are my ‘money can’t buy’ little moments of happiness. My radar is always ON searching for Japanese atmosphere. Café in Japan is unique as it provides …

Rejoice in the Land of Purist Coffee: Lanark Coffee

  London’s coffee purists stick to simple little spots that fully concentrate on quality in the cup. Lanark is one of those cafes with the shortest menus ever: espresso, espresso with milk or filter. It is a perfect spot to hide from hustle and bustle of Columbian Road and Broadway Market as its minimalist design and simple menu help guests to turn their attention to the complexity of specialty coffee.     True coffee guru would know Greg Boyce’s coffee-making abilities from Alchemy and Black Box. Lanark Coffee is his new coffee venture launched in 2014. Greg does not settle with one kind of beans but you can fully rely on his selected coffee from top micro-roasters. At the time of my arrival, behind the counter Greg has got beautiful Rwandan roast from Alchemy and East London’s Dark Arts Coffee waiting for its turn. Lanark is a coffee bar with its particular pure coffee approach: no soya milk or tea options here and sugar is available only on request. A tiny coffee bar inside is …

Meet me under the arch: Concierge Coffee

The only sign that you finally reached that famous window which sells excellent coffee is interesting logo on forest green background. Before you reach the backyard on Paul-Lincke-Ufer, you might walk a few times forwards and backwards to find Concierge, as pre-caffeinated body would easily miss the hidden petite café. Advice — no need for maps, just follow the roasty aroma. A logo is different from other coffee shops in Berlin. It looks more strict and serious. Baristas seem to have a gentlemen kind of vibe but the atmosphere itself is laid-back. However, after spending five minutes in this coffee shop, one cannot help but notice that Concierge is the place full of pride. It is Berliners’ pride of delicious coffee and owners’ pride of being independent baristas. While most Berlin’s baristas are extremely kind and heart-warming, Concierge shows a bit cool and arrogant side of baristas. But who wouldn’t have pride in serving one of the best coffees in Berlin? This arrogance is easily forgiven here. 15sqm hut is tiny with just a few …

Berlin’s True Coffee Heroes

Cursive letters that reads, Bonanza Coffee Heroes, on the greyish blue painted walls could be easily mistaken for a stylish boutique. Its minimal, yet stylish interior and exterior attract one’s eye, but the smell of freshly brewed coffee makes every passersby of Oderberger Straße a coffee addict. While for most foreigners the Barn’s name associates with the third wave coffee in Berlin, in fact, Kiduk Reus and Yumi Choi, baristas behind Bonanza, were the first to bring the legendary coffee movement to Berlin. This original roaster has been setting standards in the German capital for almost a decade and its coffee beans can be found in many coffee shops in Berlin. The inspiration behind Bonanza is London and one of the first specialty coffee shops, Monmouth Coffee Company. Monmouth is well known internationally for its approach to roasting coffee from single farms and directly trading coffee beans. While nowadays we can easily find specialty coffee shops on almost every corner, before the mid-2000s it would be a hard task to find a good cup in …

Kreuzberg’s gem – Companion Coffee

Third wave coffee companies over the last decade have been occupying mixed-use spaces, ranging from barbershops to libraries. That way specialty coffee has become in the centre of community, finding its home in unexpected locations. Companion Coffee, brought by Shawn Barber and Chris Onton, settled in East Central part of Berlin and operates in association with trendy clothing boutique, known as ‘Voo Store’. It is a tiny space for a coffee shop. However, as the café space is extended with a spacious concept store, it creates different types of casual seating. Some sipping coffee on stairs, some sitting on stools, others reading magazines at the concrete tables. There are a few natural layers and all of them present different perspectives and different experiences. The walls and ceiling are roughly whitewashed; the atmosphere is casual, yet trendy. A contrast between concrete and vivid green plants gives an impression of an urban jungle. A bath in the corner of Companion Coffee brings back memories of funky Kyoto Hanjiro shop, where not only bathtubs but also sinks are blooming …

Coffee ‘The Barn’ Way

The best-known coffee mecca in Berlin is undoubtedly The Barn. This coffee shop effectively spreads the knowledge of specialty coffee and educates the new generation of coffee connoisseurs. There is no room for a laptop or toddlers. The space of The Barn is designed to indulge in coffee and face-to-face communication. … First opened in 2010 in Mitte’s Auguststraße, this coffee company has significantly expanded in 2012 with its new coffee shop and on-site roastery in 2012. The owner, Ralph Ruller and his company has become in recent years a reliable roast supplier, as Barn’s coffee beans are more and more common to see around the city, as well as outside of Berlin. I settled in cozy and spacious Barn café in Prenzlauer Berg and I was struck by the baristas’ enthusiasm to their coffee brew. Youthful staff in plaid shirts is always passionate to advise you and help you to find a cup of coffee that is suitable for your taste buds. While the space feels a bit like an abandoned warehouse, The Barn …

The Unique Nature of Green Tea

Myths, Facts and Philosophy A tea master purifies himself by splashing some cold water on his hands and then humbly takes a tea whisk. A sacred atmosphere fills the room when a tea artisan contemplates over a bowl of Japanese green tea, known as matcha. A tea ceremony, Chado, is not dedicated to consuming a tea. This combination of an art and a spiritual discipline is all about aesthetics. … Still an oddity to the West, Japanese green tea slowly gains a worldwide popularity with its claiming health benefits, rather than a cultural practice. While legend has it that green tea was ‘discovered’ in China in 2737 BC, it was only in the 16th century that tea reached the West as explorers visited Asia. Traditional Chinese medicine has been using green tea for centuries to treat everything from headaches to depression. Now commonly recognised as a ‘superfood’, green tea has special health-giving benefits because of the way it is processed. Despite that, black tea leaves are the most commonly drunk type of tea in the …

Curators of Coffee, Art and Flawless Design

A small group of Antipodeans has gathered together for another coffee venture, where design infused with art of coffee brings space for local artists and coffee aficionados. Opened in 2014 summer, ‘Currators Coffee’ has been ‘loud’ since then. Blessed be Fitzrovia for its best selection of coffee shops in London and ‘Curators Coffee’ has absolutely deserved to be on this list. The Curators Coffee design fueled with creativity and innovation has brought two beautiful spaces to the City. However, Curators Gallery is the one that gets the most attention for its unique concept and flawless design. An airy space devided into ground floor and basement was designed by interior designer and stylist Ana Foster-Adams. A former clothing store on Margeret Street has been retransformed into a modern cafe and gallery space.  A design of careful thought and detail is the perfect environment for local art to be displayed and admired. Apart from artistic canvas, another form of art that is taken for granted in Curators Gallery is the art of coffee. Either coffee extracted by La Marzocco Strada or one of the neatly rowed Chemex, …

Obsessive Tim Williams’ Quest for a ‘Decent’ Coffee

A decade ago London’s perception of coffee as a ‘dark fluid’ was revolutionized with arrival of Aussies and their serious approach to our daily caffeine fix. A rapid growth of independent coffee shops in recent years has proved that Londoners have become pickier about their ‘cup of joe’. I am meeting Australian-born Tim Williams, a director of Workshop, who has been personally involved in reshaping London’s coffee culture, to discuss a current state and the future of coffee. Just before a midmorning coffee break only a few loners are sipping their espressos in Clerkenwell-based Workshop coffee house. Friendly-looking Tim offers me a cup of coffee and the smell of brew fills the air. “The coffee culture that we have is the result of number of influences but the Australians’ one is undeniable,” says Tim Williams, one of the most influential people in London coffee business. After getting experience in excellent coffee establishments in Melbourne, in 2006 Tim moved to London and joined Aussie-inspired Flat White team in Soho. Also known as a ‘director of coffee’, …

Let Coffee Speak to You

Talkhouse Coffee has attracted some serious coffee gents and ladies for a chat at the top of famous Portobello Road. Most of them happen to drink 5 oz latte or one of the elegantly served teas. The beans are sourced from James Gourmet, Workshop, Tate and Square Mile. After grinding, coffee is precisely measured on a scale (every gram matters!) This small detail reveals the level of attention and skill in the preparation of their espresso and Aeropress filter drinks. Lattes are exceptionally beautiful as barista is a prize-winner in the World Latte Art Championship.