The Start of Something Good: Hiroshima Coffee Festival

On April 20 and 21, the very first of what I hope will be an annual springtime event, Hiroshima Coffee Festival, was held at ii Office Hiroshima in Higashi Senda Park. Taking over a year of planning and preparation, this groundbreaking and decidedly caffeine-fueled event brought together 12 of Hiroshima’s brightest coffee roasters and baristas, plus 2 of Fukuoka’s finest for a total lucky 14.

Based on the concept of bringing coffee lovers and coffee novices together to  “find what you love, share what you love, love it even more,” Hiroshima Coffee Fest (HCF) was organized by chill downtown favorite Progress’ head barista Yuji Tanaka.

The venue was, admittedly, a little hard to find with the attached Lawson seemingly blocking it from view, but the co-working space was bright and open with two entrances and a few more exits to allow for a good flow of people. The HCF system breaks down like this: those with pre-sale tickets were free to walk in and exchange their mug ticket for a small, espresso-sized mug for tasting, while those buying regular tickets were given small paper cups for tasting. Those who were only there for a cup of coffee could just walk in and purchase a nice cold brew or an expert macchiato. It’s a pretty ingenious, up-to-you-and-your-caffeine-tolerance system that allowed for anyone to just walk in and take a look around without having to commit to more coffee than they were used to.

When I arrived at the scene on Day 1, the place was jumping. From the impressive espresso machine that Mio Bar somehow managed to transport to the venue, to the ever-changing line up of amazing DJs rocking cafe classics, 50s swing, and everything in-between, HFC set the tone for the entire weekend. Each coffee shop brought an extensive line-up of drip coffee for tasting, along with signature cold brews, a whole host of freshly roasted coffee beans from all corners of the planet, homemade confections, and exclusive blends. Mount Coffee even brought Coffee Beer and Coffee Yōkan, a dense and delicious blend of dark coffee and shiro-an that will change the way you think about traditional Japanese confections.

Over the course of two days, I tried four different tasting cups, plus two different cold brews, a silky espresso and macchiato, plus coffee yōkan, bean-to-bar chocolate studded with coffee beans (a collaboration between Fukuoka’s Basking Coffee and chocolate maker Cacaoken), and a host of other baked goods, notably the cheesecake from Karan (brought by Kokutaiji’s Akam Coffee Works) which served as an excellent coffee companion.

Everywhere I went there were smiling faces, people laughing and talking and savoring both the moment and their cup. Each barista took the time to explain their coffee and its flavor profiles, and were more than willing to answer questions. It was like hanging out with the cool coffee kids in town with…hundreds of your best friends in tow. Thanks to its location on the fringe of Higashi Senda Park, patrons were free to come and go, taking their coffee outside and leaving enough space in the venue to breathe without feeling claustrophobic.

Getting to watch baristas expertly brew a good cup of pour over coffee right before your very eyes is like watching actual magic. The bloom, the timing, the look of concentration even amid crowds of milling people. There’s just something about it. That magic was all around, and it’s what made Hiroshima Coffee Fest so special. And with the huge turn out from the very beginning, I’m excited to see what the festival will do next year and the many years to come.

Hiroshima Coffee Festival

Hiroshima Food Snob

Freelance writer, translator, local TV talent, and full-time food snob in Hiroshima