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Aust coffee buzz, beer o’clock hits Tokyo

On a muggy and rainy Tokyo morning, Japanese-Australian barista Ken Takakura is busy serving up lattes sourced from Australian coffee beans to young and trendy customers.

Growing up between Sydney, Melbourne and Japan, the 28-year-old has been training a new generation of baristas at Single O’s newly-opened Tokyo branch.

With a black and white hipster aesthetic, upcycled material adorning the walls and ceiling, and specially made DIY coffee pouring taps manufactured in Sydney, the cafe is slowly building a loyal following.

“Coffee drinking habits have changed a bit in the last five years with many cafes opening up,” he told AAP.

“That’s because a lot of Japanese people are going to Australia for working holidays and they’re interacting with the coffee culture in Australia and bringing it back with them.”

Built during the pandemic over multiple Zoom conversations, Single O has attracted a steady stream of young parents pushing prams who are after a morning pick-me-up in Hamacho.

The Tokyo suburb was once home to samurai warriors but is now a booming business district.

A beaming Premier Dominic Perrottet took time out of his 10-day trip to North Asia and India, where he is spruiking NSW as an investment destination, to enjoy a flat white at the cafe.

Single O is now the go-to coffee of choice for around 100 cafes and restaurants throughout the country.

Fresh from opening a new trade commission office in Tokyo alongside the premier this week, NSW North Asia Trade Commissioner Michael Newman is encouraging more Australian companies to follow in the Sydney cafe’s footsteps.

“We support someone like Single O to bring about a coffee culture of sitting outside, and a new experience with their brews,” he said.

“Part of my role is we listen to what you want to do and we try to find the right partner.

“We often say to our customers, we don’t do blind dates.”

Inner west Sydney micro-brewery Batch Brewing has also found a home among Japan’s extensive beer palette with its range of distinctive craft brews.

American-Australian co-founder Andrew Fineran sent three pallets this week.

Each pallet is around 80 kegs, with a keg holding some 20 litres.

“The feedback we’re getting is that people really like our beer,” Mr Fineran told AAP from Sydney.

The Marrickville business thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic as Australian consumers bought up cases of beers online, but it also extended to Japan.

“They (Japanese pubs) have been consistently ordering our core range and some of our hazy IPAs seem to be really popular,” he said.

Some of the handcrafted beers which all come in colourful packaging reflect the owners’ US heritage, such as the West Coast IPA and American Pale Ale, while there is a fruity hint in others like the Tasman Tango Ale.

Batch Brewing is looking to expand beyond Japan to other Asian markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore, but what they have found in Japan is the appreciation for good hops.

“From a service point of view in Japan, we’re very happy that they (pubs) are helping us get the beer on the boat, to the way they look after our beer and the way they sell it to our customers,” he said.

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