World Coffee Research, the collaborative research and development program of the global coffee industry and the Borlaug Institute, announced today that the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan (SCAJ) has joined the list of Founding Members. The SCAJ, which was founded in April 2003, aims to “spread the enjoyment and awareness of Japanese coffee culture and delicious coffee by liaising with like-minded organizations around the world.” The SCAJ says their goal is to foster the growth of the global coffee market, including coffee-producing countries, while prioritizing the healthy development of the coffee industry in Japan.
Executive Director of WCR, Tim Schilling, said, “The dialogue with SCAJ started when they and other roaster companies from Japan attended our Global Coffee Quality Research Initiative (GCQRI) Congress at Texas A&M University in 2010.”
In December 2011, as Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) president, Tim O’Connor, and Schilling traveled to the South Korea Coffee Show, the SCAJ requested them to stop in Tokyo to discuss the possibilities of what has now become a partnership between WCR and the Japanese association.
Schilling added that the Board of Directors of WCR is “thrilled to have SCAJ as a Founding Member.” He said that “Japan (and Asia, in general) represent a huge market and that market is different than the American or European market and it’s important that WCR takes into account those different preferences and attributes. World Coffee Research needs to conduct research in a manner that meets the needs of the global supply and quality of coffee and not only the needs of the U.S.”
Another very exciting reason for the new partnership with the Japanese association, says Schilling, is that although Japan is the biggest consumer of instant coffee in the world, the specialty coffee market is growing. “There are more coffee shops in Tokyo than there are tea shops!,” he said.
The Growing Specialty Coffee Market in Japan and Across Asia
SCAA President, Tim O’Connor, said that much like in many other Asian countries, consumer demand for coffee in Japan is soaring.
He said, “Interestingly, both India and Japan are increasing their consumption of coffee. While in Japan tea is the traditional drink, coffee is often a ‘treat.’ From my visits to Japan I have found that the Japanese see a trip to a coffee shop a special event. Coffee is often the adventure outside of the traditional beverage. It also comes with different social expectations and sometimes can be more casual than tea service or ceremony.”
SCAJ Executive Director, Takao Ueshima, agrees. “We are drinking less green tea recently and switching to coffee/black tea as people’s taste of food and lifestyle are changing,” he said.
Ueshima pointed out that the ways that young and older Japanese people drink coffee are very different but that both demographics greatly enjoy doing it. He said, “Young people are drinking instant/ready-to-drink coffee; [SCAJ’s] concern is how we can shift it to regular coffee. Elder people like regular coffee and our concern is how we can provide the situation/chance [for them] to drink more.”
Tim O’Connor said that WCR’s research agenda could benefit on input from SCAJ in terms of the quality and style of coffee. He said, “It is very important to understand quality from many different experiential and cultural perspectives. While quality has scientific, objective criteria, it also has significant subjective criteria.”
O’Connor added, “Remember, we do have the Japanese to thank for adding Umami to our understanding of taste.”
To learn more about the Specialty Coffee Association of Japan, visit their website at SCAJ.org. Visit the WCR blog at WorldCoffeeResearch.org/blog to learn more about WCR Members and follow us at @WCoffeeResearch and Facebook.com/WorldCoffeeResearch.
World Coffee Research is a collaborative research and development program of the global coffee industry and the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture of the Texas A&M University System.