In conversation: Vaughan Joseph Allison

Charlie and Vaughan shake hands after a chat about coffee

"I'm not a barista; I'm not a roaster. I'm kind of set up as a coffee lover. I call myself a coffee denizen, someone who just stays in a cafe, and who loves being in a cafe." — Vaughan

The thought of just attending the Tokyo Coffee festival was alluring my tastebuds and so it planted a firm idea in my head: "Charlie, you should go to the Tokyo Coffee Festival, and you should completely submerge yourself in coffee". And so I contacted my good friend Dan (one of my first coffee friends) who currently lives in Auckland and suggested we head to the 2018 Tokyo Coffee Festival. This story brings a lot of great memories forward, but the most positive thing it highlights is the connections and friendships I made during my week-long coffee trip to Japan. It's also where I met Vaughan, who I'm excited to feature for this next coffee conversation. It was a blast conducting this coffee conversation, and I honestly could have spent the whole day with this humble gentleman.

A Tokyo cityscape

Upon booking my annual leave for my trip, Gito one of my good friends and colleagues at work suggested I reach out to his friend Vaughan, who years ago moved to Japan. Gito only had good things to say about Vaughan, and it made me super excited to meet him! Unfortunately, the dates for the Tokyo coffee festival had changed about two months before we were due to arrive, but that didn't deter us from our aim of wanting to try as much coffee from as many cafes and roasteries as possible.

The Fuglen espresso bar in Tokyo

Dan and I made a list of coffee places we wanted to visit while we were in Tokyo, and I would have loved to include the schedule during the video conversation, but it would have probably taken me 12 years to remember every place we went! I've decided to add them in no particular order to this written section of the feature, and if you'd like to know more about any one of these in particular, please feel free to comment in the comments section below. I'll respond to you as soon as I can!

  • Switch Coffee
  • Passage Coffee
  • Onibus Coffee
  • Glitch Coffee
  • Fuglen Coffee
  • Koffee Mameya
  • Maruyama Coffee
  • Coffee Supreme
  • Allpress Espresso
  • Starbucks Reserve
  • Coffee Wrights
  • Berth Coffee
  • Cafe De L'Ambre
  • Arise Coffee Roasters
  • About Life Coffee Brewers
  • Chatei Hatou
  • Unlimited Coffee Bar
A bartender smiles while preparing coffee in a Toyko espresso bar A barista adds hot water to a pour-over in a Toyko cafe

We met Vaughan at a cafe called Chatei Hatou which was a kissaten style cafe, and wow what a hidden gem amongst the busyness that is Tokyo. With a subtle facade, Dan and I could have walked past it and not known of the fantastic experience we were about to have. The word "kissaten" directly translates to "tea drinking shop" however they also serve coffee and light sweets to accompany the brewed tea or coffee. I opted for a traditional Nel drip coffee - I can't precisely remember what coffee I got, but I do remember it was a Sumatran coffee, roasted quite dark but prepared beautifully. We all ordered a piece of cake each, so having a stronger brew complemented the soft pillow-like sponge cake I was eating. Pure heaven!

A Tokyo cafe with an open-air counter facing the street

Usually, when I'm in a cafe, I consume everything my senses allow me to but facing Vaughan and listening to all he had to say, rightfully took most of my attention, as the conversation was just that good. Seeing the relationship Vaughan had with one of the coffee masters made me smile, it's as though two mates had only just seen each other for the first time that week and immediately the banter started flowing. It was, of course, all in Japanese so I couldn't understand a word they were saying but just witnessing it, I sat and smiled the whole time. It's safe to say my memory of Chatei Hatou was a great one, and I've got Vaughan to thank for that!

A Koffee Mameya barista in a white coat adds hot water to a pour-over. The packed shelves in the background lend an apothecary feel. The Unlimited Coffee Bar in Tokyo

I also wanted to touch on the delicious brew we were drinking during the conversation, thanks to my good friends Katelyn and Jase at Common Coffee in Edinburgh, Scotland. We were brewing their Sweet Roast - a Guatemalan San Antonio de Esquipulas fully washed coffee that was just delicious. Flaunting flavours of sticky raisins, glossy milk chocolate, chewy toffee and ripe red plum, it has been one of my favourite Guatemalan coffees of the year! While brewing the coffee, Vaughan picked up the bag and immediately his eyes hovered and connected with the words "A good conversation is, after all, often had over a cup of coffee". This sentence resonated with both of us as we were about to start a great conversation of our own.

Vaughan's demo setup for Charlie: coffee, kettle, grinder, pour-over, scales, spoon, and a glass tumbler Vaughan adds hot water to a pour-over

The thought of going to Japan became a reality, and once there, the coffee offered the opportunity to connect and form the friendship. I sincerely hope you enjoy watching this next Coffee Conversation with Vaughan. I've probably watched this clip close to 50 times and I still smile and laugh about some of the things we've said. Early in the conversation, he responds to my introduction of how we met as an understatement, and he's entirely right; humble, down to earth, genuine, real, funny, and so much more is Vaughan Joseph Allison. See for yourself in the two-part Coffee Conversation below!

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