Japanese barista extraordinaire Eiichi Kunitomo brings his famed Omotesando Koffee to Bangkok
LOOKING EVERY bit as elegant as the shops of high-end furniture brands on Siam Paragon’s third floor, the cube-like Omotesando Koffee beckons the weary shopper with its zen-like ambience. Boasting an open design and minimalist tables and chairs, the well-known Tokyo coffee outfit is an oasis of tranquillity in a chaotic world.
The Japanese tea ceremony inspired the bar’s singular approach. One barista serves a single customer, allowing the pair to share the coffee-making experience, similar to way the refined tea ceremony is conducted, with just a host and a guest.
Tokyo’s well-known Omotesando Koffee opens its first outlet in Thailand at Siam Paragon.
“The minimalist design is based on the beauty of the void where the subject is reduced to only the necessary element. It’s not easy to strip everything down to achieve simplicity, but I want customers to focus on the coffee much more than on other elements,” founder/barista Eiichi Kunitomo told The Nation Weekend during his brief trip to Bangkok last month for the opening.
The signature cube-style and the brand’s name are a nod to his origins.
“The word ‘koffee’, comes from the first letter of my last name in English ‘Kunitomo’ and in Kanji (the adopted Chinese characters that are used in Japanese writing) its shape looks like a cube,” he explained.
Founder/barista Eiichi Kunitomo
The menu is simply printed on plain white paper and features nothing except coffee and matcha. Baristas wear lab coat-like uniforms to represent the customer-centric approach.
“Like a pharmacist giving consultation and providing right medicine for a patient, a barista will talk with each customer to personalise a cup of coffee to match his or her taste,” he said.
Each detail of the brewing is done right before your eyes from the grinding, the setting, the drip of the espresso to the steaming of milk and the delicate pouring of the drink.
Kunitomo opened Omotesando Koffee in 2011 in a compact traditional Japanese house in the residential area of Omotesando - Tokyo’s busy business and shopping street. Originally meant to be a one-year, pop-up concept, the quality of coffee and one-on-one service drew coffee connoisseurs and it ended up staying for almost five years. It was forced to shut at the end of 2015 due to the fragile structure of the house.
He later opened the sister brand Toranomon Koffee and the bean-specialist shop Koffee Mameya in Tokyo but the brand Omotesando Koffee was recreated in 2016 for Hong Kong, his first overseas venture. Singapore got its Omotesando last year and this year it was Bangkok’s turn. A London branch is slated to open soon.
The coffee beans are carefully sourced from around the world and the roasting is done by contract roasters, mainly Ogawa Coffee Roaster in Kyoto.
“We don’t roast beans ourselves because this process should be done by professional roasters. Ogawa Coffee Roaster has been in business for 65 years and we also look for other good roasters that have expertise in beans harvested from different areas.
“A good barista should bring out the maximum flavour of the beans and understand the customers’ needs to brew a cup of coffee that will make them happy. A good cup of coffee should provide natural sweetness of beans, cleanliness, and an aromatic flavour keeping a lingering sticky mouth-feel all the way through,” said Kunitomo.
The Bangkok outlet currently offers two blends. The No 1 blend comes in medium and dark roasts as the base for espresso with beans sourced from Ethiopia, Brazil, El Salvador, and Indonesia. The No 2 blend with beans from Guatemala and Panama is for black coffee and drip coffee. Limited single-origin beans are expected to be added soon.
The Omotesando original hot coffee goes for Bt110 a cup, hot espresso (Bt105), coffee latte (Bt135), cappuccino (Bt135), and matcha latte (Bt145). A barista will make a cup of hand-drip coffee (Bt215) at your table, gently pouring 240 grams of hot water in four steps over 15-grams of ground coffee.
The espresso-based original iced coffee costs Bt150, the 12-hour cold brew (Bt170), iced mochaccino (iced cappuccino with chocolate syrup, topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder, Bt175), and iced matcha latte (Kyoto green tea with cold milk, Bt160).
Kunitomo, who took time out to visit some speciality coffee cafes in Bangkok, noted that the current Bangkok coffee culture is like that of Tokyo three years ago, when baristas were challenged to make a decent cup of coffee and people were more open to coffee trends.
“While people in Tokyo still enjoy a good cup of coffee from the speciality shops, an increasing number prefer to make their coffee at home by sourcing the beans and the right brews. This is what we call the ‘third-wave’ movement where high-quality coffee is considered an artisanal beverage like a fine wine and the origins and artisan methods of production are vital,” said Kunitomo, adding that his Koffee Mameya offers people the chance to become their own baristas.
When asked how to describe a tasty cup of coffee, Kunitomo didn’t hesitate for a second: “A cup of coffee that you enjoy drinking until it’s finished and want more. Each individual is different in the way they taste the coffee and it is our job to give every one of them a joyful experience.”
FULL OF BEANS
Omotesando Koffee is on the third floor of Siam Paragon (North zone), Bangkok and is open daily from 10 to 10.
Visit Facebook: Omotesando Koffee Thailand