Special Brew: Shop in Okinawa City serving celebrated cup of joe

Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Special Brew: Shop in Okinawa City serving celebrated cup of joe

by Shoji Kudaka
Stripes Okinawa

One step inside Mame Pole Pole, and customers are greeted with the ever-inviting aroma that only freshly roasted coffee beans exude.

It’s a place where customers won’t find every day coffee, because every bean is special here.

Just ask the coffee shop’s owner, Yoshiyuki Nakamura who recently was named the best coffee roaster in the country after winning the Japan Roasting Championship in 2017 and 2022. Plus, he finished runner-up in the World Coffee Roasting Championship (WCRC) in 2018.

“Coffee is a luxury,” said Nakamura, with a smile.

The shop, now located near Gate 2 of Kadena Air Base, has a variety of different coffee to offer, but when it comes to picking a blend for someone, it’s not so easy.

“Everybody has their own preference,” said the acclaimed roaster. “Some people like sour flavors while others don’t. Or some like bitter flavor while others don’t like it. You can enjoy different beans depending upon the situation.”

Nevertheless, Nakamura mentioned three blends of coffee for first-time customers: Gajumaru, Ethiopian Brothers and Brazil a.k.a. Sweet Chocolate Blend.

“Gajumaru Blend has a pretty dark flavor and good aroma,” Nakamura said. “Ethiopian Brothers Blend is a mixture of dark and light roast beans with a slightly sour flavor. This is a good choice for those who have only experienced bitter coffee and would like to give their first try at ‘fruity’ coffee.

“The Brazil Blend uses two kinds of beans: Passeio and Recreio in Brazil. This is a good pick for those who would like to enjoy sweet coffee.”

According to Nakamura, Americans are among the customers coming to his shop and he has noticed a difference in how they order.

“I see that Americans have a distinct opinion on what they like or what they don’t. So that makes our job very easy,” Nakamura said. “Compared with Japanese, I think Americans are more familiar with coffee. And they do drink coffee a lot.”

Nakamura loves coffee obviously. But interestingly, he was not a born coffee lover. It was an encounter with a certain coffee that inspired him to dig deep in the world of coffee.

“After graduating college, I travelled Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam as a backpacker, playing pool at cafés there. At one of those cafés, I had a coffee that tasted sweet and bitter. It was something I had never experienced before. It totally surprised and fascinated me. When I got back to Okinawa, I got a job at a coffee shop to start. I have been making coffee ever since.”

He spent 10 years learning coffee-making. Roasting was one of the skills he devoted himself to honing.

“It takes good roasting skills to make the flavor of coffee beans come out,” said Nakamura. “It all comes down to what kind potentials beans have. If beans have fruity flavor in them, I can bring it out. If the beans don’t have that, I can’t bring it out even if I want to. So it makes a huge difference which beans you choose.”

With the best roaster in Japan and the second best in the world titles under his belt, Nakamura is now hoping to inspire more people to explore the world of coffee, just like a cup of coffee opened a door for young Nakamura.

“I am planning to offer coffee workshops, where customers can learn various aspects of coffee making such as dripping, cupping, roasting and more,” Nakamura said. “Plus, I would like to offer something unique such as a combination of yoga and coffee. I want to make it a space for community.”

Mame Pole Pole

GPS Coordinates: 26.339315, 127.799707 
Hours: 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Open on Tue., Wed., Fri., Sat.)


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