Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Coffee Tales - Japan

Coffee pot, Edo Period (1615–1868), 1650–75. Japanese Porcelain (Hizen ware, Arita type) The Met tells us that this coffee pot was made specifically for export to Europe. "From the mid-17th to the mid-18th century, when Chinese porcelain production was in decline, the Japanese porcelain industry thrived through trade with the Dutch. Since shapes like coffee pots were unfamiliar to Japanese potters, the Dutch would provide models to be copied. Additions of silver or gold mountings to a porcelain vessel were common in export wares, highlighting the high value placed on porcelain by the wealthy European consumers."

The Dutch brought coffee to Japan in 1609, where it competed with tea but never overtook it. In 1804, the 1st written account of drinking coffee appeared in Japan. By 1826, there was written documentation that word was spreading that coffee helped increase longevity. When free trade began in 1858, coffee was imported. In 1869, the 1st printed advertisement for coffee appeared in the port town of Yokohama. By 1888, the Japanese planted coffee beans that yeilded some crop. But, in 1885, the 1st Japanese immigrants had been brought to Hawaii's Big Island sugar plantations to work on 3-year labor contracts under severe conditions. Many found their way to Kona & were employed as coffee pickers. By 1899, the 1st Japanese mill known as the "Kona Japanese Coffee Mill" was established in Kailua-Kona. At that time, farmers were obligated to deliver their crops to Captain Cook Coffee Company or American factors, making it difficult for the Japanese mill to obtain coffee beans. As an incentive, Japanese mills offered cash payment & slightly higher prices to coffee growers. They would set out at midnight to pick up the coffee crop. And so, today the Japanese prefer some of the world’s rarest & most expensive coffees from Kona, Hawaii.

In Japan, a Mandarin fell in love with a courtesan. “I shall be yours,” she told him, “when you have spent 100 nights waiting for me, sitting on a stool, in my garden beneath my window.” But on the 99th night, the mandarin stood up, put his stool under his arm, and went away.

For more early morning coffee tales, click here.