A small piece of New Zealand

In the heart of traditional East Tokyo, a small piece of New Zealand espresso culture is gaining a foothold. iki Espresso, started by Kim and Teru Harase, showcases New Zealand products such as wine, beef, salmon and honey, and offers local coffee drinkers a Kiwi experience 10,000km away.

However, as Teru explained, in order to shift from “pretending to be a New Zealand café to truly being a New Zealand café”, the team would have to experience Kiwi hospitality for itself. For the first time since the café started in 2016, its doors would shut for an entire week as the staff from the café made the trip down under.

The group first touched down in Queenstown, where Kim and Teru have recently opened a boutique accommodation lodge. The team visited four cafés, talking to owners and café managers, and getting a feel for the local café culture. They then ventured up to Auckland, where Kim and Teru first met in the early 90s, visiting Takapuna Beach Café, Kokako, Best Ugly Bagels and Ostro.

“They’ve loved it,” Teru said. “We’ve had a lot of coffee and eaten a lot of food.”

In Japan, the coffee culture is different from New Zealand but has been growing steadily in the last ten years. More and more overseas companies are setting up shop, but still lacks the freedom that defines coffee in places such as New Zealand.

“It’s very strict, with set guidelines on how to extract the coffee, how many beans, etc,” Teru explained. “In New Zealand coffee is about meeting with friends and having a good time, but in Japan it’s much more rigid.”

iki espresso has been well received in Japan – even the All Blacks dropped in before their test against Japan, although the staff had no idea who they were serving. With the Rugby World Cup being held in Japan next year and the 2020 Summer Olympics being held the year after, iki could soon play host to a range of international travellers looking for a place to relax.

“We’re trying to make a home for them,” he said. “We want Kiwis to come to our café and feel comfortable. At the moment we’ve been travelling for a week and we’re already missing rice – we want to offer those comforts to other travellers in Japan.”