My university has had strong connections to Japan for over a century, and the connections have afforded me some interesting -- if inconsistent -- glimpses into the geography of coffee in Japan. From a faculty colleague I have had samples of coffee packaged for convenient brewing in a form I have not seen elsewhere. Last year, a student who went for a semester-long exchange sent a digital S.O.S. because he could not find whole-bean coffee, a grinder, or a French press, all key components of the kind of coffee care I had taught him. More recently, two students from Japan participated in my Nicaragua study tour, and had not had much prior experience with high-end coffee.
Others have told me, though, that coffee is very important in Japan, and not limited to the high-tech varieties of canned and instant coffees that dominate the market. Courtesy of my favorite librarian comes a story from yesterday's New York Times, extolling the virtues of slow coffee in Japan. Apparently, while I was not watching, Japan has become a source for all kinds of low-tech coffee preparation equipment of exactly the type my student (under my tutelage) was seeking. It turns out that even Williams-Sonoma has eclipsed me in this area! Time for some new research on my part, though I have not even broken in my Chemex yet!