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About us

Why does an Austrian roast coffee in Japan

Hello, my name is Guenter Mallin

Many may now think of Vienna and its long tradition of Cafes and Coffee Houses, which I really appreciate and enjoy every time I visit. But since I was born and grew up in the far west of Austria, the other side of the country from Vienna, it was not until I was older that I came to love the Coffee Houses.

The western part of Austria is characterised by high mountains, long winters with fog in the valleys, blooming days in spring, long hot days in summer and an autumn that invites you to go hiking in the mountains. Skiing in the winter and spending summer by the outdoor pool are traditional leisure activities. It is also traditional that the cows spend the summer in the mountains and the farmers use the wonderful milk they produce to make a mountain cheese of the highest quality. You may be wondering what all this has to do with coffee. The answer is that Italy is less than 3 hours away by car.

As a child I didn't like coffee. Neither was I allowed to drink it. As a teenager and young adult, there was filter coffee from the machine with milk and sugar, or soluble coffee with brightener from the vending machine, which was absolutely normal at the time. Today I would politely refuse any of these drinks.

Over time, the first fully automatic coffee machines conquered households in Europe. They were able to produce a nice crema at the push of a button, but the quality of the coffee did not really improve because the shelves in the supermarkets were still filled with the same coffee blends as in the ‘70s.

Cafes offered mainly Americano and Cappuccino with milk foam as firm as foam itself or served with whipped cream. In the meantime, I was able to change jobs at my old employer and as a result travelled extensively within Europe and across the world. Some of these trips took me to Scandinavia, where a completely different coffee culture exists and this awoke my curiosity further.

Many of my trips took me to Italy where the cafe is part of life. If it was not possible to have a coffee (espresso) in the morning break at work, my Italian colleagues got into their car and drove to the nearest bar to have coffee while standing at the counter. Dinner always ended with coffee at the bar on the way out of the restaurant, even late in the evening. So gradually my love for coffee, i.e. espresso, came into being. From then on, for me, only espresso was real coffee and there was no way of persuading me otherwise.

In my first apartment I had a real espresso machine with a portafilter and a grinder to grind coffee fresh for every cup. If someone wanted an Americano, which is still the standard coffee in Austria, then, forgive me my ignorance, they got a cupful from the espresso machine where the hot water was allowed to leach the coffee until the cup was full. In terms of taste, the bitterness and acidity could not be surpassed! I would like to apologise to everyone who had to drink it.

The work-related trips abroad became fewer over time as my work shifted increasingly to the office. My love of espresso remained though, which resulted with me drinking 8 cups a day. I met my wife on one of my few remaining trips. She comes from Japan, and we met in Bonn, when she was studying and I was working there. Like me, my wife loves Italy, so we spent a few long weekends there. Our trips to Japan were also a great pleasure, although it wasn't easy for me at the beginning as a coffee fanatic. At the same time, it sparked new interest, as there were cafes in Japan that sold only filter coffee.

Back in Austria, things changed. The espresso machine became more professional, the coffees became higher quality and there was a micro-roaster opened that sold filter coffee in addition to espresso. But what was even more important was the birth of our daughter. All those who have children know what I'm talking about. Through our daughter, there was personal contact with the owner of the roastery and I was able to broaden my coffee horizons, although I still preferred espresso.

Then we decided to live in Japan. In our discussions it became clear to me that I would also like to change my line of work. As crazy as it may seem, I wanted to open a cafe in Japan. My knowledge of coffee was still poor, although my interest in coffee was greater than ever; I realised I had to do a Barista’s course before we moved to Japan.

Through my contact with the roaster and my own research, it was clear that there was only one place in Austria where I would wish to take the Barista course; it is one of the best training centres in Europe. And I was lucky to be able to complete the Barista Basic and Barista Intermedia with Goran Huber in his Coffee Institute. Goran opened my eyes! It wasn't just a matter of preparing a cappuccino perfectly and learning a few barista basics - we learned about the whole spectrum of coffee, from botany to coffee-roasting to machine maintenance. I came to realise that there is much more than espresso in the world of coffee. There was a great opportunity to taste and evaluate coffees grown in different countries, of different quality and given different processing, side-by-side each day. I was in coffee heaven! My interest in coffee grew and my first experiences of roasting coffee left their mark on me.

Having gained my Barista Intermedia Diploma I went to Japan. My family was there waiting for me and it was great to see them again. Then I had to go back to school for ages, this time a language school. My Japanese was rudimentary and my daughter had long overtaken me with her Japanese. But it was also a great privilege to be able to spend so much time with my family and to see my daughter grow up. At the same time I was making my initial plans for the Café.

Coffee Roasting became an increasingly important topic. The first major investment in the Cafe was a sample roaster from Ikawa and a few kilos of green coffee from an internet shop. From then on, the coffee we drank at home was roasted by me. This allowed me to gradually improve my experience with green coffee, with roasting and in developing my tasting ability. On our family trips or on the way to the language school, I was always looking out for good coffee to see how it was roasted, prepared and drunk.

Eventually I was ready to look for a suitable restaurant and to create a concept for it. I decided that I not only wanted to prepare and sell coffee, I also wanted to roast this coffee myself. Finding a suitable place was a much bigger challenge. Progress was slow. Exceptional circumstances took me back to my old company, working part-time as a consultant. During this period I realised that roasting only made sense if I could further expand my knowledge of coffee at the Goran Institute. My family gave me the opportunity to do my Barista Bachelor's degree at Goran's Coffee Institute, for which I will be eternally grateful.

After my second period of study in Austria, we were soon very lucky to find and arrange to rent a suitable restaurant in Tsujido. The rest of the story can be experienced just by visiting the TORA Coffee Roasters. It would never have happened without the support of my wife; many, many thanks for everything…

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