What makes a good coffee shop – a café, a kissaten (喫茶店: きっさてん) – great?
Lifting it far above its counterparts to become a favourite?
Is it the coffee beans (コーヒー豆) they use?
The way they combine those beans (豆: まめ) in the process of selecting, blending, roasting, grinding, tamping, extracting and pouring?
Maybe it’s their stylish latte art?
And the suave ambience of the premises?
Or perhaps the friendly baristas and other staff serving behind the counter who bring a smile to your face with a simple “good morning” (「お早う: おはよう」)?
I would like to think it’s a combination of all-of-the-above. And then some.
After all. There are innumerable kissaten between where I’m staying in Ōsaka and the humble dispenser of pure coffee joy at the end of my “yellow-brick road”.
Each and every day (毎日: まいにち) I traverse the great divide between Kitashinchi (北参道) in the north and Minamihori (南堀江) in the south.
A 3km – 45 minutes each-way – trek through the labyrinthine concrete jungle offering up countless alternatives to my intended destination.
Yet none have ever seriously tempted me.
None have drawn me away with their siren calls.
Their whispered offers of cool, crisp airconditioning and plush, comfy sofas and a foreshortened journey to ease my discomfort.
All very alluring in this oppressive, sweltering heat & humidity (蒸し暑い: むしあつい) of summer (夏: なつ).
For what they try to pass off as coffee is – quite literally – rubbish.
Insipid. Weak. Tasteless.
However, the prospect of a hot brew created with a deft hand and loving tenderness still needs more.
Why? Because we are incredibly adaptable creatures.
Easily convincing ourselves that what we’re consuming is quite alright. It’ll do. Close enough is good enough.
But more what?
“… ay, there’s the rub” Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 1
I reckon it’s the people.
Ultimately we’re all looking to connect.
Establish bonds. Cultivate relationships. Forge friendships. No matter how subtle or complex they might become.
And that happens best when there’s a common interest.
In this case, it’s an appreciation of fine coffee.
Once the foundation is established it becomes easy to build upon it.
The structures of shared experiences and insights pieced together like a LEGO set.
The bricks building up one upon another until there exists an interwoven mesh.
The multi-coloured layers forming a latticework of memories and emotions.
Now perhaps I’m ascribing too much to a band of rogues I hardly know.
Yet daily contact and a constant supply of caffeine is as helpful to me as their frequent provision of linguistic tutelage and recommendations of travel photography assignments.
What’s more, I’ve had the pleasure (快: かい) of meeting many other interesting folk in the hallowed confines of this mecca.
Photographers. Models. A masseuse.
Humble shop assistants. Proud business owners.
Locals and foreigners (外人: がいじん) alike.
So I ask you: “What more could one ask for?”
Streamer Espresso Ōsaka is quite simply an oasis of comfortable familiarity in a desert of abject solitude.