5 things to know about cult coffee brand Omotesando Koffee
Some might have heard the recent buzz surrounding Japanese coffee brand Omotesando Koffee's arrival on our shores. It's minimalist, it's painfully hip — right up the alley in terms of what aficionandos crave for in the specialty coffee scene in Singapore. The respected Japanese coffee shop first stole the hearts of many in Tokyo, on Omotesando Hills — then operating as a one-man, one-booth coffee shop in an old Tatami house. After five years of service in Tokyo, it had to unfortunately close down due to the building's frail condition of living out its 80 years.
Since then, the brand has relocated to Hong Kong with two existing shops set up there and now its third, in Singapore at OUE Downtown Gallery. As loyal followers of the brand, we couldn't be more thrilled. We caught up with director and franchising owner of Omotesando Koffee, Russell Stradmoor, who shared a few things that we (and most likely, you) didn't know about the journey of the cult Japanese coffee brand.
1. The first franchise began with some stalking and many months of research
My first visit to Omotesando Koffee in Tokyo sparked off as a vested interest in Eiichi Kunitomo-san (the founder of Omotesando Koffee). I was watching the guy for 40 minutes like a stalker, and was captivated by how he engaged with his customers. While he serves up to three to four hundred people in a day, he could remember most of the orders that they had placed before. We then struck up a friendship after my multiple visits to the shop and I then brought up the idea of bringing the brand to Hong Kong since I am based there. He (Kunitomo-san) was hesitant at first, but decided to do it after 18 months of extensive research about the culture and coffee in Hong Kong. I didn't expect anything less from a perfectionist like him.
2. Setting up shop in Singapore wasn't an incidental decision
My first impression of the brand revolved around the many cities (including Hong Kong, New York, Singapore, London, and Melbourne) that were printed on the cups of Omotesando Koffee. I immediately realised at that time, Omotesando Koffee only had one existing pop-up in Tokyo. The reason behind listing those cities was Kunitomo-san's dream of going to those places and serving his coffee to people from all over the world. Slowly but surely, Singapore was the next destination we wanted to embark on as I feel that in terms of standards (similar to Hong Kong), Singaporeans have a higher level of expectations for the food and drink business here.
3. Not all Omotesando Koffee's outlets are made equal
We did a fair bit of research on the coffee scene in Singapore before officially opening here and found out that Singaporeans tend to enjoy coffee with a darker roast — so we made small and important adjustments to the coffee that we serve here. It's important to listen to what the market here wants. Obviously, we understand that any franchise shop will never be able to capture the original Omotesando house with a garden outside. I don't think I can ever bring an 80 year-old Japanese garden anywhere else in the world. But the least we can do is keep the quality and service on par of what it used to be.
4. A good barista isn't all about making good coffee
I once asked Kunitomo-san what makes a good barista, and he replied that making a good cup of coffee is the most basic job of a barista, but what about being a good one? It's about serving up good coffee as well as honing the relationship with each and everyone of your customers. For him, he was able to build friendships, learn from different cultures, and keep in touch with people since the time he started his business. To me, that's a fascinating feat.
5. You can find a similar Omotesando Koffee in Tokyo
A reincarnation of Omotesando Koffee can be found in its sister brand, Koffee Mameya. Expect the same minimalist approach to serving up coffee here as the man himself, Kunitomo-san, is based at this establishment.
6A Shenton Way, Level 4
Opening hours: 8am-6pm