%Arabica: A Love For Coffee, Design & The World
Inspired by the Starbucks movement in the United States, Kenneth Shoji, wanted to make the best coffee in the world - starting in Kyoto. Now after a decade, his vision and love for coffee, design, and the world has resulted in 140 shops around the world.
Published April 4th 2018 on the former blog
Coffee culture in Japan has been around for a few decades, but recently one specific company has captured my attention: %Arabica.
The company was founded by Kenneth Shoji who was inspired by the Starbucks movement in the states and wanted to make the best coffee in the world. He borrowed money from the bank, bought a coffee farm in Hawaii and after an entire year of trying to persuade the world champion of coffee art Junichi Yamaguchi worked out, he opened his very first shop in 2014 in Kyoto, specifically Arashiyama, an area that you probably know for it’s bamboo groves. He doesn’t just love coffee but truly cares about craftsmanship and design which becomes very evident when you see the shops across town (there are 3 coffee shops in Japan, all of them in Kyoto.
It didn’t take him very long to open a second branch right by another famous tourist destination, Kiyomizu Temple.
If you don’t have time to leave Kyoto downtown, there’s always the branch in the midst of downtown Kyoto inside Fujii Daimaru, a high end department store.
What Shoji-san and I have in common besides the love for coffee and design is that the 2011 earthquake was a trigger for change his life (it was also what made me want to move to Silicon Valley). He was running a family business manufacturing and trading chemicals for printing that was 50 years old before but saw that something needed to change considering the rise of the digital industry. In the few years he has had the business he now has 11 stores and is expanding to 21 countries this year, 2018. He is also looking for architects to work with him on those projects. You should reach out if you’re interested!
Visit the %Arabica website to see all his other locations and read more about how the company came to be. Next time I’m in town you’ll definitely find me taking a stroll in the Arashiyama bamboo groves with the nice cup of %Arabica coffee.
STORIES BEHIND THE PIECES
Kiyoko Matsuoka, 4th-generation shibori master
Shibori, meaning “to wring, squeeze or press” is the process of shaping cloth before dyeing to create various designs on the textile. Rather than using the cloth as a two dimensional surface, the Shibori textile has a three dimensional element, given that each technique requires years of experience to master.
Hiromichi Nakade, Maker of Oryoki Bowls
Meet Hiromichi Nakade and Kazuya Fujimoto, the makers of the Oryoki and Kodaiwan bowls. A master craftsman sits with his former apprentice to speak about their hope for the declining crafts industry in Japan, as well as the appeal of craftsmanship.