Santa Cruz, California-based Verve Coffee Roasters has plunged deeper into Japan’s vibrant specialty coffee market, opening a two-story cafe in Tokyo and a roastery cafe in the coastal prefecture of Kanagawa to the south.
Yoichiro Iwata, CEO of Verve Coffee Japan, told Daily Coffee News that the previous system of receiving beans via FedEx twice per week has given way to a roasting program based in Kamakura. There, a 25-kilo Probat machine is in view of customers from a warm cafe featuring lightly stained wooden surfaces bathed in natural light.
Sunshine also streams through glass walls onto white counters and natural wood surfaces in the new two-story cafe in Tokyo’s bustling entertainment district of Roppongi.
The light is enough to sustain plant life around the shop, including a palm tree on the first floor and a Loca Ficas tree on the second floor that the company sourced through Okinawa-based greenery designer Qusamura. Patrons can also take a seat outside on a spacious patio.
Green coffees roasted in Kitakamakura for all shops are culled from the same lots purchased for Verve’s U.S. roasting operation. Both new bars feature Kees van der Westen espresso machines, Mahlkönig grinders and Kalita Wave pourover brewers.
The nearly 13-year-old coffee company now has a total of 13 retail locations throughout California and Japan. The first Tokyo location opened at Shinjuko Station in 2016. Iwata said that the specialty coffee market in Japan has been expanding rapidly since that time.
“However, the market size in Japan is still very small compared to non-specialty coffee shops such as Starbucks,” said Iwata. “We think the potential market is very big, and believe the potential market would be about 10 to 20 times of the current market size in the next 5 to 10 years.”
Iwata also noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic has affected life in Japan to a lesser extent than it has in the United States, the impact is still substantial.
“We are trying to go back to normal economic activity with basic prevention standards such as wearing masks,” said Iwata. “But the economic activities are still slow. In our case, 10% to 30% lower than last year.”