FOREIGN BARISTAS IN TOKYO. VOLUME 2 of 4 JONNY REED of MOJO COFFEE

FOREIGN BARISTAS IN TOKYO. VOLUME 2 of 4 JONNY REED of MOJO COFFEE

Release Date: Jul 28, 2017

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do, and the road leading up to coming to Japan.

I’m a pretty average kind of guy. I love sports and beer and of course coffee. I also like to travel and see and experience new things. I owned three cafes in Melbourne for a while so time off was something of a premium so I learned to make the most of it.
Japan for me was never really a place I’d dreamt of coming to, certainly not to live anyway. That all changed when I met my now wife in Melbourne. She is Japanese and it all worked out that I was selling the last of my business interests in Melbourne so I was free to follow her to Japan. I’m glad I’ve had the chance to experience life in another country its been a big change and at times a challenge but always fun.

2. How would you describe Mojo to someone who’s never been? What can one expect and what’s on the menu?

Mojo is fairly typical of what you would find in a cafe in New Zealand or Australia. Good strong coffee, hearty sandwiches and some really delicious sweets. Across the three stores in Tokyo the menu changes a little but it is generally similar.
The ambience is pretty relaxed and the staff try and interact with the customers where possible to really give them a friendly and personal vibe. I guess you could say it’s a little piece of New Zealand in Japan.

3. What’s it been like working in Tokyo? What type of things are you focusing on?

It’s been really interesting working in Tokyo. Learning to understand the cultural differences and the service requirements here. It’s really good to compare to the way we do it in Australia. I think both countries can learn a lot from each other in regards to service and efficiency of service.
Personally I’ve been focusing on just trying to understand the Japanese way of doing things and also educating staff and customers about coffee.

4. Tell us about the coffee culture in Tokyo compared to back home.

I guess the biggest difference compared to Melbourne is the sheer number of cafes. The specialty coffee scene is just taking off here but in Melbourne it has been happening for years. Everywhere you go in Melbourne you can get amazing coffee. Whether its in the CBD or a little suburban shopping strip there is always someone doing some really nice coffee. Tokyo though has a few really good areas but as you start getting further from the yamanote line the chain coffee stores really take over. In Melbourne especially we dont really have many chain coffee stores, they just cant compete with the passion of owner operators. Even Starbucks struggled.

5. What do you think is the biggest problem in the coffee industry in Japan right now?

I think the biggest problem is just customer awareness. For customers to know and appreciate the difference between a ¥100 convenience store or vending machine coffee and a specialty coffee. It’s definitely starting to happen but it will just take time.

6. Can you give us some insight in regards to Japanese baristas/staff. Tell us about their attributes and their style of work.

Japanese Baristas at least in my experience are so keen to learn. They want to know everything about everything. They are always watching youtube or reading coffee books trying to improve their knowledge. Its good for me as well because it makes me think about things that i just do as second nature.
They also have a great work ethic. They come in and do whatever they are told and do it to the best of their ability.
Sometimes they can probably be a little too serious and they need to relax a bit and try and have some fun. If the staff are working hard but smiling and having fun then its a great place to be for them and for the customers.

7. How do you enjoy Tokyo when you’re not working at Mojo?

Melbourne is constantly rated one of the best cities to live in the world, so I was a little concerned when I first came over but Tokyo is amazing. So much fun, so much happening and the people are so friendly.
On days off I usually try and keep it low key. Have a coffee somewhere, do a bit of shopping. Maybe a cheeky beer.
One part of Tokyo which is often overlooked is the mountains to the west. I spend a fair bit of time when possible running through the Okutama region. Its only 1.5 or 2 hrs from Shinjuku but its great to get out into nature for a while.

8. Any advice for people coming over to Tokyo?

Tip 1
Eat it before you ask what it is!! There are so many delicious things here that I would probably not have tried or even ordered if i had translated them first.

Tip 2
Get out of the touristy areas. Tokyo is so vast it can be hard to know where to start. But try and get out of the main areas a little bit just to see what the locals live like. The little grandma and grandpa run izakaya are great and much more traditional than some of the chain izakaya.

Tip 3
Make sure you’re fit before you come. When visiting tokyo you can spend so much time wandering around looking at all the amazing things you can literally log tens of kilometers in a day. That combined with the stairs everywhere can make a day quite exhausting. Do yourself a favour and put in some workouts before you come. Its always good to be healthy and active anyway.

9. Finally, if a good friend was coming over to Tokyo for the first time, tell us where you’d take them for breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner and then drinks!

For Breakfast I’d head down to Gorilla for an Egg and Bacon Sando. For coffee I would hit up Bearpond or Fuglen and then on to the spring valley brewery in Daikanyama for a couple of beers and some pizza for lunch.
Dinner is tough, so many good options. I’d probably just find a little Izakaya or Sushi-ya off the beaten track a little or I’m a fan of the Ebisu Yokocho. For drinks, i love to be outdoors so in summer I’d go to one of the rooftop areas on the department stores or perhaps the shin-Marunouchi building on the 7th floor overlooking Tokyo station is a nice view at night.

 

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Interview by Vaughan (@vja)
Photography by Nik van der Giesen (@nvdg81)

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