May is a beautiful time to be in Japan. Kelly Mac, Kid Riemer and I were full of anticipation when we all three arrived to Narita. Our mission was to launch Salsa and Adventure by Bike into Japan. I think it is safe to say that what we experienced far exceeded our expectations. At one point in the trip we were interviewed independently for a magazine article. All three of us were asked about our experience while in Japan and what stood out? All three of us answered with the same three things; the kindness and generousity of the people, the beautiful land, and the incredible food. While these are the things that really impacted us on our trip, there were many, many things that left lasting impressions. Over time, we'll be bringing you many stories from our trip. Today, I'll share just one of my stories and a personal surprise from the trip.
Seven years ago I visited Japan for work. I've also travelled quite a bit in Taiwan and also made a trip to mainland China. On every trip I've had trouble getting coffee. Being a coffee addict in a tea culture, I thought I'd better be prepared for this tour as I expected a tea culture. I'd hate to be on a bicycle tour without coffee. In fact, I can't even imagine it. So, as I packed up my own bike cook kit for this trip, I included my coffee filter, ground beans and some emergency Via packs. Little did I know that I was in for a real coffee treat.
Upon arrival, we all quickly noticed the endless supply of vending machine coffee. It seemed that you could get all sorts of coffee from the vending machines. Hot or cold. With sugar or without. With cream or straight up black. In a can or in a cup. You name it, the vending machines had it. On several occassions, I sampled several of the canned brews. But this really isn't the coffee I want to write about today. While I love coffee of all types, I really, really love good coffee made with the finest grounds. To that end, Japan is a paradise and for me personally, was quite a surprise. I found great coffee everywhere.
On the streets.
In the bike shops. This was one of the best shops I've ever seen. It's the Bike Loop in Niigata, Japan.
But my favorite kind of coffee is coffee you prepare yourself. On our bicycle tour, several members of our party were coffee addicts just like myself. This was a pleasant surprise. Each and every morning, a few of our friends pulled out their hand-operated portable grinders, poured in fresh beans from their favorite, local coffee roaster, patiently ground the beans to perfection, placed the grounds in their portable filters and carefully poured hot water through the fresh grounds. For me, there are few things that smell as good as gravity assisted hot water filtering through fresh coffee grounds. It is the perfect way to start the day and enhance a bike ride.
I really did not expect to be completely blown away by the coffee, but I was. So much so that I brought a few of the items back home with me. I was so enamoured with the grinder that one of our friends gave me his own grinder as a gift. This is but one example of the generousity we experienced. I also purchased a portable coffee filter shown above at the Montbell store. I've put both to good use already. My super early morning rides have gotten even better as I find a nice spot and make perfect trailside coffee. Every turn of the grinder's crank and whiff of fresh trailside coffee bring me back to Japan.