Book: Coffee Life in Japan

I meant to write this review a while ago – and Liz Clayton’s excellent review finally spurred me into action.  In early June I was in Boston, and had a little spare time.  I made my way to Dwelltime in Cambridge, and while waiting to order I saw this book for sale.  I grabbed a copy, and started reading as I drank my coffee.

A little backwards and forwards on twitter with Merry White (better known as Corky) and suddenly I’m no longer having coffee alone, but am enjoying being sat talking with her face to face – she is local, being a Professor at Boston University.  She very kindly took time out of her day, and took me around some local cafes and introduced me to people and it was a lot of fun.  I’m very grateful, and wish to be transparent, and I think (or at least I hope!) that day doesn’t really influence my review.

Most of the books on coffee I’ve read recently have bee devoted to getting us to brew better coffee, or understand the product itself better.  (This is no bad thing!)  It felt so invigorating to read about how coffee can become entwined within society, to look at how cafes fit within a different culture and the roles they can fulfil.  Japan’s wider culture can easily become an obsession, because so much of it feels so alien.  Seeing how something as familiar as coffee shops became interwoven into that society was oddly inspiring to me – a renewed feeling that we could do interesting and novel things in our own cultures, certainly beyond the narrow coffee culture we currently have now.

I had no idea of the breadth of coffee influence of Japan – it made me interested in going further into aspects of the history of coffee in Japan.  On the brewing/barista side of things, the term kodawari was appealing and compelling.  I will avoid trying to explain as Corky does a much better job than I!

Perhaps this isn’t really a review, more a recommendation – all I can really say is that I enjoyed it, and if you want to read something well researched and well written then you’ll probably enjoy this too.  Check below for some links to purchase (none are affiliate links).


University of California Press


Amazon UK