Yoshiyuki Nakamura a roaster who continues to challenge himself to be the best in the world

[Modern Artisan] interview with mamepolepole Yoshiyuki Nakamura

The technique of ``roasting'' is very profound and cannot be learned overnight.
Knowledge and skill are required to explore the potential of coffee beans and bring out the desired flavor and aroma.
The ultimate result of this thorough examination of the technology of roasting is the World Coffee Roasting Championship (WCRC), an international competition to determine the world's best roasting skills.

In this competition, which purely evaluates roasting techniques, Yoshiyuki Nakamura , a roaster who runs a roastery called " mamepolepole " in Okinawa, competed as the Japanese representative in 2018 and came in second in the world.

Mr. Nakamura , who often says, ``I'm clumsy,'' had his encounter with coffee and roasting the result of a series of coincidences from his childhood.

Surprise I felt from Vietnamese coffee

Mr. Nakamura is now recognized as one of Japan's leading roasters, but when he was younger, he didn't care about coffee, only canned coffee was enough.

``When I was young in Okinawa, both McDonald's and A&W (commonly known as Ender, an Okinawa hamburger chain store) were open 24 hours a day.Ender, in particular, had free refills for coffee and root beer.If you did that, you would run out of money in the middle of the night. It was a chaotic situation, with students studying over a cup of coffee and old ladies chatting until the morning.''

After studying at university during this time, he went on a graduation trip to Asia, traveling from Thailand to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. His goal was to play billiards, which he was playing at the time.

``At that time, the level of billiards in Asia was high, and at local cafes you could write your name on a blackboard, order a drink, and play billiards, and you could play pool until you lost.Then I ordered Vietnamese-style coffee. It was very bitter and sweet, which surprised me as I had only ever drank canned coffee. That's what got me interested in coffee."

After returning to Japan, he started working part-time at a coffee shop that happened to be hiring. Brewing coffee as a barista at that time was the starting point for my involvement in coffee.

``It was a coffee shop that had an espresso machine, which was rare at the time, and served things like cappuccino.After all, coffee with cinnamon was called ``espresso''.It was really fun to make authentic coffee. When the customer said, ``It's delicious,'' I became even more obsessed with it.''

Although Nakamura was not a coffee fan, he felt great joy and satisfaction when he received compliments on the coffee he served. The reason for this was a ``clumsy'' complex that he had had since childhood.

``When I was in the first grade of elementary school, I broke my right hand and was forced to write with my left hand. Around the third grade, when I was finally able to write, I was forced to use my right hand again, and as a result, my handwriting was sloppy. I also can't draw well. Therefore, I had a preconceived notion that I was a clumsy person since childhood. I was really happy that such a person made coffee and was praised for its deliciousness, and the backlash was also great. Well, I kept thinking, ``I want to make it even more delicious,'' and ``Why does it taste better?''

The first time Nakamura realized that coffee was delicious was when he made himself a double shot cappuccino at the shop where he worked part-time.

``My original experience was when I felt a very chocolate-like sweetness, I thought, ``How many people can find this sweet?'' I started drinking it.One day, when I added enough milk to match espresso, I felt the sweetness of dark chocolate.From there, I started to appreciate the sweetness and thought, ``Black can be sweet, too.'' I went.”

Hand-roasted by self-taught through trial and error

I have the personality that once I start focusing on something, I want to master it to the fullest, and even as I gained experience as a barista, I came to the conclusion that ``roasting seems to be the crux of coffee.''

However, although he read many books about coffee, none of them had detailed instructions on how to roast coffee.

``I did a lot of research and found out that I could do it at home, so I talked to a local home roaster in my neighborhood, and he sold me a hand roaster. He also gave me green beans for free, and he was such a nice person. I thought so.”

The beans I received were all moldy and moldy beans that had been roasted at the store, and the first coffee I ever roasted myself was the worst I've ever had.

``I was an amateur so I didn't understand anything (lol).However, at that time I realized that ``roasting is difficult'' and that was the beginning of my career as a roaster.''

There are no places in Okinawa that teach roasting techniques, and he begins to appear at seminars on the mainland.

"But everyone was saying different things. In the end, I didn't really understand."

I need a roaster

Nakamura taught himself and continued to practice hand roasting. When I was confident that I could at least roast delicious food by hand, I wanted to try my hand at a roaster, so I purchased a Fuji Royal 1kg oven-fired roaster. This is a small roasting machine that is popular for test roasting and small-scale roasteries.

Since then, I've been roasting and handing things out to people I know. While working part-time, he invested his earnings into roasting. In order to save up a large amount of money, I sometimes worked as a seasonal worker. At that time, I continued to visit cafes on my days off and study coffee through books.

The reason I was able to become so engrossed in roasting and continue to strive to master roasting techniques was because of my desire to turn coffee into a career at my first coffee shop.

While learning these skills, he aims to open his own shop. However, since I didn't have any money on hand, I went around asking various people.

"I've already been told by Volokas. My relatives and acquaintances have told me, ``It's my fault for not saving money,'' and ``Is that how you can make ends meet?''

Mr. Nakamura himself knew that it was no use saying that, but his passion for roasting never faded.

With the help of various people, mamepolepole was opened in 2010.

Fuji Royal raised me to be a full-fledged person.

When we first opened, we installed a Fuji Royal pot with a 5kg pot, but we modified it to increase the number of burners and install two fan systems to enable continuous roasting. I couldn't achieve shallow roasting using the open flame method, so I improved the drum myself and changed to a semi-hot air method. Furthermore, he began to feel that the contours of the beans had become dull, so he installed a Probat roasting machine.

However, looking back, using Fuji Royal in the beginning was significant in helping him reach his current level.

"When I think about it now, it's just a lack of knowledge, and I would be able to bake just fine with an open flame roaster. I wish I could tell myself 10 years ago, ``It's not the roaster's fault.'' (LOL) .Fuji Royal's finish tends to fluctuate due to small differences in outside temperature, and in Okinawa, it changes a lot when a typhoon approaches.The roaster controls the negative aspects such as easy burning to prevent this from happening. Just do it.

I think being exposed to this roaster gave me an opportunity to think about things like that, and I was able to improve my skills. Once you get used to the Fuji Royal, you won't be affected much by the overseas roasters that have a high heat storage capacity (used for tournaments, etc.).''

The reason we aim to be the best in the world is for our own learning

Just because you install a good roaster and open a store doesn't mean your roasting techniques will suddenly improve one day. Mr. Nakamura himself wanted to learn more and roast more deliciously, but he was finding it difficult to find the time. That's why I started taking on the challenge of the Japan Coffee Roasting Championship (JCRC).

``If you don't do anything, time will just pass by.However, if you are going to participate in a tournament, you have to make time to study no matter what you do.I'm not that strict with myself, so I try to prepare for the tournament. I needed to make time to face roasting and think, ``I have to do it.''

The first tournament I participated in, I finished in the 20th place. However, as he said, ``It was good that I was able to study as a result, so I was able to grow to compete next time.'' He continued to work hard after that, and finally became the best in Japan at the 2017 Japan Coffee Roasting Championship. Obtained a seat. At the 2018 world championships, where he represented Japan, he won second place.

Not only that, but at the 2022 Japan tournament, he won the number one title in Japan for the second time. And he is spending his days honing his skills in preparation for the world championships to be held in 2023.

“At the 2018 World Championships, I confidently thought, ``I can do this,'' but it didn't work out.I won by a narrow margin at the Japan Championships, and came in second place at the World Championships by a narrow margin.I took a different approach than last time. I'm studying for the competition while searching for...

Aiming for the best coffee with a sweet and pleasant taste

Nakamura 's ideal coffee can be summed up in one word: sweet coffee with a pleasant texture. We are careful not to bring out any negative aspects that may arise from roasting.

“I’ve always liked that kind of coffee, and at the tournament you can see the negative aspects in great detail.”

We believe that there are various factors that determine the taste of coffee.

"I think the taste has a lot to do with who you drink it with and where you drink it.However, objectively speaking, deliciousness can be made through roasting.The most important point is balance. It means roasting to make it taste better.”

The same goes for CROWD ROASTER 's beans, which he encounters almost every time for the first time.

“The roasting requested at CROWD ROASTER is not the beans I would have wanted to roast. That's why I think it's fun to make discoveries while doing it, and I think consumers enjoy it too. .I have felt the same way myself.

You can taste and compare coffees roasted using the same beans by different roasters, and CR does things you can't do in one store, whether it's looking at the beans or the roasters. I hope to spread the variety of ways to enjoy coffee."

From the way Nakamura speaks, it doesn't seem like he is pursuing his own knowledge and skills, but that he is aiming for honor or profit. Even in his unique Okinawan intonation, you can hear the pure enjoyment of the act of roasting, which he encountered when he was not familiar with coffee.

“There are some tough parts of the job, but once you get over them, roasting coffee is a really fun job.”
CROWD ROASTER has a lineup of various coffee beans that are not available at Nakamura 's store " mamepolepole ."
Request roasting by Nakamura and get coffee that you can only enjoy here.
Shop information
6-13-8 Takahara 1F, Okinawa City, Okinawa Prefecture
OPEN: 10:30-18:30
CLOSE : Thu,Sun