Tetsu Kasuya has won gold for Japan. The 31-year-old Tochigi Prefecture native did it with skill, attention to detail and a deep knowledge of his craft. What's more, he is the first person from Asia to ever win his event. And which event is that? The World Brewers Cup, an international coffee-brewing competition held this year in Dublin.
Japan "is called a secondary region for coffee, but I became the world No. 1. I take a lot of pride in that," Kasuya told the Mainichi Shimbun of the June competition which pitted him against coffee masters from 36 countries and territories. However, his path to the golden pot championship trophy started relatively recently.
In 2012, Kasuya was working at a Tokyo IT company when he was admitted to hospital with type-1 diabetes.
"I couldn't even drink juice," says Kasuya. "I had a lot of time on my hands, so I bought coffee beans and coffee-making equipment and brought them into my hospital room." And so began his passion for the bean, and for making great coffee. In 2013, he got a job at his elder brother's favourite cafe-roastery, the Coffee Factory in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.
Kasuya says that, unlike coffee common in Japan, international brewing competitions judge a cup of joe "based on how well you can bring out fruity elements but without any bitterness." Competitors choose their own beans for the World Brewers Cup, so in March Kasuya voyaged to Miami to scour a local wholesaler for the coffee he would take to Dublin. He tasted about 30 types, and eventually went home with a Panamanian bean. He also tasted about 20 different waters from across Japan, choosing a brand from Aomori Prefecture because it brought out a "soft flavor and refined acidity" in his brews.
The Brewers Cup is a filtered coffee competition, and Kasuya impressed with his own unique brewing technique. He divided his hot water into two parts. The first 40 percent he added to the coffee in three pours "to create a balance between sweetness and acidity," he said. The remaining 60 percent he added in several pours to adjust the thickness and intensity. Kasuya says he spent six months collecting data on the water temperature, changing the amount and other factors as he went.
"I want to cultivate coffee culture in Japan," Kasuya commented, adding that he will try to communicate the charm of the coffee bean through his job at the cafe and through seminars.