It is all the same whether on the world stage or at a small café. Entertaining the guests in front of me is my job.

Okaffe Kyoto
Akihiro Okada

Okaffe Kyoto Akihiro Okada

It is not how impressive the class of the bean, but who drips the coffee.

It was a great encounter with her. Please tell me about the concept of your shop.

Mr. Okada:
The main trend of current cafes is as a place to spend time alone with stylish sofas and tables.
It is a common pattern that you see in many franchised coffee shops.

But the place I wanted to make was not like that.I wanted to make a place where the servers and customers could face each other.

At a franchised café, customers are all facing walls and windows. No one talks to the staff that brings your coffee. That means staff and customers always have their backs to each other.But in shops with baristas, people talk over their coffee instead of drinking in silence, and customers smile and are energized.

So in this shop, there is a counter and it is designed so that I, as a serviceman, can be seen from any seat.It’s the best when the customers see my performance at the counter and think, “That was fun, I want to come again.”.

This is a totally different strategy from franchised shops.

Mr. Okada:
To put it simply, I want to provide service using the presence of a person.So the name of this shop is Okada’s Café, or Okaffe Kyoto.

The logo of the shop even features a silhouette of me pouring coffee.Coffee with select origins or coffee made with an expensive machine is good, but more than that, I want customers to taste coffee brewed by a person, a barista named Okada.

I want people to visit the shop because of this serviceman named Okada.For example, in Italy, the home of espresso, customers follow the barista.If their favorite barista moves to another shop, customers also start going there.Baristas are recognized in that way, and it is considered a high-class job.The same goes in America and Australia.

In Japan, people pay attention to the kinds of beans more than who brewed it.
Third wave coffee, the most recent trend in the industry, showcases this.
People seem to like specialty coffee with branded beans that were grown at famous farms, but what I want to provide is not highly specialized knowledge.
I want the customers to feel value not from the class of the bean, but from who brewed it and who served it.

Okaffe Kyoto Akihiro Okada

It is more fun entertaining customers in front of me than pursuing technique.

So it’s the value of baristas, you say?

Mr. Okada:
To be honest I hesitate to call myself a barista. If I had to choose a word, I would say “serviceman.” The image I have of a serviceman is a person who makes customers have a good time through entertainment, energizing them. Coffee happens to be the catalyst, but we are providing the service.

I always think that there’s no job more fun than service. Entertaining customers through performance is the essence of service. I have become the best barista in Japan and ranked third in latte art, but the job cannot be fun if you only pursue technique.

I want everyone to know how fun and worthwhile it is to entertain a group of customers in front of you, instead of focusing on technique.

So to you, a barista’s job is to entertain people.

Mr. Okada:
Yes. It is all the same in global competitions and in a small cafe.I make them happy with the best performance I can give, providing entertainment to whoever came to see me at the counter.When they come again, I provide even better service than they expect.

My shop does not have to be big.
To me, the best outcome is if they come and are energized by the time they leave, ready to work hard again tomorrow.

Lastly, please give a message to people who become baristas and work in the restaurant industry.

Mr. Okada:
Pursuing technique and knowledge is not the nature of our job.It is normal to brew delicious coffee and make a good latte art if you are a barista.But if you are satisfied with that, you cannot say that you understand half of the fun of this job.

Try to see the faces of the customers who enjoy the coffee and food that you provide.And be sure to communicate with them.Make them surprised by what they see and taste.See the reactions and get excited together. That’s the fun part of the job.It is sad to walk away from the restaurant industry without knowing the motivation behind this job.

It is very sad. There is no manual for our job. It’s interesting because the answers differ depending on the time, place, and situation.Your personality is reflected in your job, so it is important to improve your value.The job of service is a job to grow people.

(Interview: Takashi Ichihara, writer: Yohei Ueda Jiro Photographer: Osaka Kengo)

Okaffe Kyoto coffee

Okaffe Kyoto interior

Okaffe Kyoto

235-2 Shinmei-cho Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
3 minutes from Hankyu Karasuma Station or Kyoto city subway Shijo Station
9:00 - 21:00 [Last order 20:30]