Salsa Japan Tour 2012 - Bringing It Back

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.


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Jason Boucher

Jason Boucher

Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.


Glenn Charles | June 12th, 2012

Gnat, coffee is a huge thing for most of us adventure types, and while I too have tried just about every type of instant known to man, as you said, nothing beats fresh grinds through a drip.  I would love hear your thoughts on which grinder that is and how well it holds up.  Thanks for sharing, I look forward to more images and stories from what sounds like an amazing and very special trip.

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Luke | June 12th, 2012

I was stationed in Japan for a year and the picture of the canned Georgia coffee just brought back great memories. I was also amzed at the option to get a hot can of coffee from the vending machines.


Gnat | June 12th, 2012

Glenn, thanks. 

Russ Roca just pointed me to the product listed as a Porlex portable grinder with a 1 ounce capacity. I just did a very, very quick search and it costs roughly $65 - $100 depending on where you buy it and if you buy any accessories with it. It is very, very durable stainless steel with a ceramic burr grinder so it in theory, it should last quite some time.

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Kelly Mac | June 12th, 2012



Gnat | June 12th, 2012

Luke, the hot coffee in a can was a surprise too and much appreciated on one of our days in the cold rain.

David "Spokesman" Crook | June 12th, 2012

Gnat… I love your BLOG. Excellent photos and story. I have tried MANY different ways of preparing gourmet “coffee-snob” coffee on the trail. The method that we find the most pleasing (5 Stars) is the “Aeropress”. Fantastic coffee and extremely easy clean-up. Maybe one day I can brew a cup for you… Website:

David "Spokesman" Crook | June 12th, 2012

... I forgot to mention… My spouse Lucy owns and rides a Mukluk. I can’t wait to have my own. It is time to “Ti One On!”

Randall Dietel | June 12th, 2012

I love Japanese coffee culture!

Here’s an inspiring documentary about Yoshi Masuda who traveled along the coast of Japan to share coffee with people after the tsunami.

There’s also some great Japanese made coffee equipment such as Hario and Kalita. And, the Japanese iced coffee is the best summer coffee beverage.


Gnat | June 12th, 2012

Thanks guys. I see I am just now getting to the coffee party.

Randall, that takes it to a whole new level. Loved it! Beautifully shot. Thanks for sharing that.

BIKE LOOP | June 13th, 2012

Happy Coffee and Happy Ride !!

Thank you for coming to my shop.
We were all happy to have a good time and experiences with you.

See you soon.


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Chad Ament | June 14th, 2012

I am currently rather fond of my Clever for brewing, and bean wise love a good Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, or Kenyan.

I do keep a pack of via in my frame bag for those long rides when i need caffeine really really quick.

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Jane | June 16th, 2012

Did you do any riding???

James M. Gorman | June 16th, 2012

I love coffee. No doubt about that, it is my “blood” to ump my veins especially in the cold days. As i have read your article, I decided to punch in some additional on my favorites. Would love to try this coffee of yours, Gnat. Thanks for the post.


Gnat | June 18th, 2012

Thansk all.

Jane, yes we did A LOT of riding. We’ll be sharing pics and words in the weeks and months to come. Stay tuned.

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