Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Why Japan’s cold Kyoto coffee has become a hot seller in the UAE

Tracing the journey of Kyoto coffee, a trendy and elaborate method of making the perfect summer cold-brew coffee, which has made its way – drip by drip – to our shores.
Tall towers at Café 302 contain Kyoto coffee, made by slowly dripping water through grounds and chilling it. Christopher Pike / The National
Tall towers at Café 302 contain Kyoto coffee, made by slowly dripping water through grounds and chilling it. Christopher Pike / The National

However much you enjoy coffee, the thought of a steaming hot cup on a scorching-hot day is too much to bear for many. But now Japan’s “third wave” of coffee offers the perfect refreshing summer brew – Kyoto coffee.

“This Japanese iced-coffee method is an alternative to cold-brewing iced coffee,” says Dragana Jankov, manager of the newly opened Café 302 in Al Maha Arjan by Rotana. “It promises a bright and clear iced coffee, with the most coffee-flavour purity.

“Our servers offer guests the chance to try something new – but to be honest, we already have customers who come here just for Kyoto coffee.”

As opposed to rapidly compressing and heating coffee to make a hot cup, the key to Kyoto coffee is subtlety. The equipment, a large drip tower, was developed in artisanal cafes in Kyoto, Japan, hence the name.

While other cold brews are steeped in large vats of cold water for 24 hours, Kyoto coffee is produced by dripping water slowly, for eight hours, through coffee grounds and then chilling it for 24 hours – resulting in cleaner and clearer flavours.

The story of Kyoto coffee is, in some respects, a microcosm of Japanese modern history. Although the archipelago maintained its sakoku policy of fierce isolation for centuries, when it finally did embrace trade and contact with the outside world, it did so with vigour.

While Dutch merchants used to sip coffee in seclusion on the island of Dejima, Nagasaki prefecture, it was not until trade opened up in the 19th century that the Japanese began to import and consume it.

Japan’s first kissaten – a coffee shop and tea house hybrid – opened in Tokyo in 1888. By 1937, the country was importing 140,000 bags of coffee a year. Though this declined during First World War and post-war reconstruction, coffee imports were liberalised in 1961, with about 250,000 bags imported that year alone.

The introduction of canned coffee in 1969 helped destroy the stereotype that the drink was reserved for the elite, and popularised it among the country’s youth. Thus began the second wave of Japanese coffee – with an emphasis on convenience. Since the early 1960s, hundreds of thousands of cafes have opened and coffee consumption has grown by 3,000 per cent. Fans of the drink dedicated to perfecting the art of coffee making have given rise to a third wave of Japanese coffee. Perhaps nothing sums up the new age better than the Kyoto coffee drip tower.

A far cry from the Japanese Coffee Syphon Company’s first syphon drip brewer, introduced in 1925, the Kyoto coffee apparatus has become an international phenomenon – one that is even taking off in the Arabian Gulf. Celebrating a deep heritage of coffee, it is the perfect way to brew a sweet, full-bodied and, importantly, cold cup of Joe.

Leopold’s of London caught wind of Kyoto coffee three years ago, and has built a fan base for the beverage, which it brews in a Tiamo branded cold-drip system. Roastmaster Titus Mirara says Kyoto coffee is a big seller – meaning they virtually always have a tower on the go.

“What I normally do is if, let’s say, I’m predicting tomorrow is going to be busy, I leave it dripping overnight,” he says. “Sometimes you have to restart the cycle during the day.”

At Leopold’s, the process begins by chilling 800 millilitres of purified water overnight with ice and placing it into the top chamber. One drop passes every three to five seconds through the first filter, saturating into the 80 grams of medium-ground coffee.

It then travels through a second filter, collecting in the bottom chamber.

“The broad spectrum of delicate flavours expected in this cold brew are sweet, balanced tropical fruits, citrus, chocolate and nutty – according to the characteristics in the coffee being brewed,” says Mirara.

It is best, he says, to use a strong coffee with full or medium body, to withstand the chilling process without losing its original smooth taste.

Janko says: “People like the machine, which is there for presentation, because they can see how it’s prepared. We put two litres in the bowl on top, then we have two filters of 50gm of coffee.

“They’re drinking the coffee which we prepared yesterday; it’s interesting for them to see this whole process, and they’re amazed by the flavour.”

Cold-brew coffees for a chilled out summer

Common Grounds, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai

Common Grounds has cold-drip coffee, Dh30, and cold-brew coffee, Dh25. The cold drip is produced using a drip technique that lasts up to 10 hours and results in a strong coffee with a smooth finish. The cold brew, is steeped in cold water for 12 hours and is syrupy.

The Surf Café, Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai

The Surf Café uses a slow-drip filtration system, which it calls a coldpress, to produce a pure, strong, Dh35 cup of coffee.

Intersect by Lexus, Gate Village, Dubai

This chic set-up offers two Dh20 summer specials: a 12-hour cold brew and an iced coffee, which is served with milk and sugar.

Mokha 1450, Al Wasl Road, Dubai

This cafe caters to coffee aficionados. Customers first choose from a range of coffee varieties such as Yemeni Sabri, Ethiopian Geisha or Guatemalan Asobagri. Then there is a variety of cold brews to choose from, which vary in price from Dh15 to Dh25 and an be served pure or on ice.

Café Arabia, 15th Street, Al Mushrif, Abu Dhabi

This café is a one-of-a-kind hub of art and literature, set in a homely environment. For a more casual cold coffee, try the Dh20 Frappe Latte, a cold latte blended with vanilla ice cream and caramel, or a Dh22 Frappe Mocha, mocha blended with chocolate ice cream.

Urban Bites, Shining Towers, Abu Dhabi

Urban Bites offers its own twist on cold coffee in the form of a Dh22 date coffee frappe with cardamom.

halbustani@thenational.ae

Updated: August 7, 2016 04:00 AM

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