Japanese Coffee Chain Brings New Identity to Boston’s Coffee Scene

Kyoto-based specialty coffee chain, Ogawa Coffee plans to open a new shop in Boston, marking the first example of a Japanese coffee shop’s arrival in the United States. 

Ogawa Coffee, home to both 2010 World Latte Art Champion Haruna Murayama and 2013 champion, Hisako Yoshikawa, is a welcome addition to Boston’s specialty coffee shops, as its arrival signals a hopeful renewal of identity for the currently stagnant scene.

Founded by Hideaki Ogawa in 1957, Ogawa Coffee has been a major player in the Japanese coffee scene and produces coffee appealing specifically to the Japanese palate, which calls for thicker, stronger coffee and more intricate latté art and glassware -- an obvious aesthetic difference.

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Serving as a precedent for the Japanese coffee scene’s move to America, Ogawa Coffee hopes to spread the Japanese passion for artisanal coffee to the States.

“What we seek is not only good-tasting coffee,” proclaims Ogawa on the homepage of his namesake’s website.  “It is discovering and providing the coffee’s value that leads humans, nature and the whole environment in a positive direction. This is our dream.”

Despite the ubiquity of Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee drinkers, Boston’s specialty, artisanal coffee scene has remained rather niche, still serving primarily those who are passionate about coffee, rather than the general populace.  Additionally, Boston’s coffee scene is more focused on guest coffees, coffee beans borrowed from other roasters, and does not feature many prominent roasting companies.

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Big, well known coffee shops in the area, such as Pavement Coffeehouse and the Thinking Cup, use beans roasted in North Carolina (Counter Culture) and Portland (Stumptown) respectively.  Rather than establish its own roasting identity, Boston features coffee beans from cities across the country.

As a result, the identity of Boston’s coffee scene is muddled and not well established.  Without many widely acclaimed roasters, what does Boston have to offer?

The appearance of Ogawa Coffee signals a paradigm shift for Boston’s scene as other international coffee shops, such as South Korea’s Caffebene, have begun to see Boston in a new, attractive light and deciding to open shops in the cosmopolitan, college city.

This shift complements the scene’s current reputation for synthesis, as the arrival of international coffee chains reinforces Boston’s identity as a city with a diverse selection of coffees from all around the world. Boston is able to step away from the traditional understanding that a coffee scene must have coffee roasters, and is able to showcase a variety of beans and set a new mold for coffee scenes.

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Ogawa Coffee’s Boston location will be overseen by Haruna Murayama, who plans to live in Boston and manage the shop’s menu. This enables Ogawa Coffee to both cater to Bostonian tastes and preserve the shop’s Japanese café culture.

Ogawa Coffee plans to open in the Spring of 2015 and will be located on 10 Milk Street. Ogawa Coffee’s Boston location will feature a brewer’s lab, a training studio and event space in addition to its café space.

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Daniel Lee