Big in Japan

This one was a no-brainer.

I had bumped into Fritz Storm at the SCAE show in Cologne earlier this year where I was exhibiting for Marco and the Gold Cup programme. We got talking about competition and Fritz told me about a training camp that he was putting together and asked if I would like to be involved. Like I said, a no brainer.

Fritz Storm, for those of you that don’t know, was the World Barista Champion in 2002. He has since gone on to work as a consultant and trainer for some of the biggest names in coffee. Baristas such as Kyle Glanville, James Hoffmann, Morten Vestena, Klaus Thomsen, Matt Riddle, Simon Robertson, Sammy Piccolo and Troels Poulsen (to name but a few) have all worked with Fritz in the past.

There were also two other Baristas that stuck out for me on his list and who had also expressed an interest in the training camp.The first was the Swedish Barista Champion of 2008, and eventual fourth place finisher, Daniel Remheden. Daniel’s performance that year was one that I looked to a lot in training and was a massive influence on my own performance in competition. He didn’t compete last year due to the birth of his first child, but this year he is stepping back into competition as well as opening his own roastery “Love Coffee” in Lund, Sweden.(we’re hoping to get some coffee as guest roaster in the new year)

The second was a fellow competitor from this years competition in Atlanta, Attila Molnar of Hungary. Attila has competed twice in the WBC (in Copenhagen and Atlanta) finishing 11th and 6th respectively. He was a breath of fresh air at last years competition displaying an enthusiasm and attitude that really warmed the crowds to him. He might also be the most colourful Barista on the planet.

The training project planning moved along at a steady pace until about a month ago when we were all given the green light. It was going to happen. Now, as most of you already know I am currently in the process of opening my first shop. The timing of this event really couldn’t have come at a worse time but having spoken at length to Steve, Dave and my family we all decided this was an opportunity I really couldn’t afford to miss.

What sealed the deal was the news that one of the worlds most esteemed coffee buyers Kentaro Muryama was to host the event at his roastery in Komoro Japan. We would also be joined in the training camp by Mie Nakahara, the recently crowned Japanese Barista Champion and Barista at the Muryama roastery cafe.

The camp itself gave us an opportunity to work collectively as a team in exploring our understanding, interpretations and preferences in coffee. Fritz had made it abundantly clear at the beginning that the camp was all about openness and so from day one there was a great atmosphere of learning established.

No expense had been spared in the setting up of the camp. We each had our own station replete with a competition Aurelia and a Mazzer Robur E to boot. At our disposal were some of the finest coffees available on the planet. If you look at any cup of excellence auction list you will most likely see the name Muryama coffee lurking at or somewhere near the top of the buying. Kentaro doesn’t own any bad coffee.

Whats also interesting is that he’s roasting on a 35kg Smart Roaster which is drastically different to the traditional Probat, Diedrich et al. I’m not an expert on roasting, and I won’t pertain to be so, but what I will vouch for was the clarity and articulate flavours that were in every cup we produced. Now this might be down to Kentaro himself or perhaps even the quality of coffee he is using, but there was something about these coffees that intrigued me.

The most obvious departure from traditional roasts was the fact that we were pulling shots of coffee 40 mins (yes 40mins) after roasting. This is a potential game changer for me. We struggled to find any coffee older than 12 days on site so I’m not sure how it ages over time, but this was freshness at its extreme.

Throughout the week we had various vistitors from sponsors to Baristas to TV crews and many more. The openness and enthusiasm that everyone showed was for me an integral part of the weeks training. Fritz himself was key to establishing this and set about creating a forum where each barista was encouraged to work in their own particular style but still remain open to learning from the other baristas.

This programme is of course an on going programme that will develop in future years under the guidance of Fritz and Kentaro. I hope to be able to add this in some way shape or form in future as I am a strong advocate of anything that works to educate and enable  to develop skills and knowledge.  

Kentaro and me (I)

I will also have to undertake a number of visits to Copenhagen in the next few months to do some further work with Fritz (and hopefully catch up with Daniel and Attila). I do however feel that I’ve already gained a huge amount from this experience and if nothing else I have had the chance to meet some amazing people.

p.s. I must also take this opportunity to thank Mr. Hidetoshi Nishimura who tirelessly escorted us around Japan for the week and answered every question we had. We had a lot 😉 Great guy, sharp dresser.

The Mighty Mighty Hide'

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3 thoughts on “Big in Japan

  1. Tumi Ferrer says:

    Hi Colin, this is Tumi from Iceland, we met in Cologne 🙂

    Found your site while browsing, can’t understand how I didn’t find it sooner!

    Anyway, best regards and hope to see you in London next summer!

  2. @40fortytwenty20 says:

    I was drawn to this post as I happened to (belatedly) watch an old episode of Tamper Tantrum earlier today which had you and Steve doing the whole Big In Japan song thing.
    Although I’m relatively new to the coffee obsessive behaviour thing I found this post fascinating in a “kid in a sweet shop” way- especially the brewing 40 mins after roasting. Ultimate freshness. Thanks.

  3. colinharmon says:

    Hey Tumi! Great to hear from you! I will be in London regardless of whether I qualify or not, its a must-see event for me! Hope to catch up for a beer then. If your ever in Dublin drop me a line

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