【Discovering Japan’s Finest Drip Coffee】Chapter 2: G☆P COFFEE ROASTER – Gousuke Jitsu

In Japan, there are coffee shops that are dedicated to exploring the art of home roasting raw coffee beans, and using the hand-drip method to extract maximum flavor. In this series, we’ll be taking you on a journey to discover these exceptional places, where the passionate philosophy of the shop owners adds an extra layer of flavor. In the second installment, we spotlight ‘G☆P COFFEE ROASTER,’ a shop that reinterprets the coffee culture of the Showa era and captivates coffee enthusiasts with its masterful dark roasts. We delve into the roasting techniques of the shop’s owner, Gousuke Jitsu, and the passion he pours into each cup.

PROFILE

Gousuke Jitsu
Born in 1991 in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Gousuke Jitsu opened the first G☆P COFFEE ROASTER shop in Hatsudai, Tokyo in July 2017. In June 2022, he expanded with the opening of a second location in Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture.

A Back-Alley Café Devoted to Masterful Dark Roasts, and Embracing Wonders of the Universe.

Vintage 1993 model direct-flame roaster ‘Fuji Royal 103’.

The renowned entomologist Henri Fabre, known for his famous quote “To know is to see,” dedicated himself to the tireless pursuit of insects across various fields. In a similar vein, roaster Gousuke Jitsu spends the majority of his days – from 10 AM to 8 PM – immersed in the art of coffee roasting at his converted garage roastery on the outskirts of town. Though their disciplines differ, the single-minded devotion of Fabre to his insect studies and Gousuke’s daily routine of attentively listening to the voices of coffee beans curiously intertwine.

In an era where light roast coffee is gaining prominence, Gousuke has chosen to make dark roasts his signature style and is steadfastly advancing along this path. We begin by delving into the background and circumstances that led him to this decision.

The original shirt has the kanji characters for coffee shop on it.

Even before graduating high school, Gousuke had already found his calling in the world of café culture.
“I’ve been going to cafes with my grandmother since I was a child. There was something so comforting about the leisurely flow of time in these spaces, where the lives of all sorts of people would intersect.”

At 19 years old, he began working at a local café, and as he gained experience at shops using siphon and cloth drip brewing methods, his fascination with coffee itself steadily grew.

“Even though they weren’t actively hiring, I must have sent around 10 resumes to cafes that I thought looked really cool in the photos, each with a heartfelt cover letter attached.”

Unfortunately, his passionate applications didn’t bear fruit, and he ended up working at a friend’s restaurant called ‘HOFF’ in the Hatsudai neighborhood of Tokyo. It was around this time that he also met the former owner of a self-roasting coffee shop called ‘Blue Door Coffee’ in Yokohama. Gousuke was granted permission to freely use the roasting machine before the shop opened, and this marked the beginning of his own deep exploration of the craft.

He would commute from his home in Tokyo to Yokohama early each morning to practice roasting, then spend his days helping roast the beans used in the shop, before heading back to Tokyo to work at the restaurant in the evenings – a grueling schedule that left dark circles under his eyes. His appearance which resembled the late legendary artist Prince earned him the nickname ‘Gypsy Prince.’ In 2017, he would go on to open his own dark roast coffee specialty shop, G☆P COFFEE ROASTER, in Hatsudai – A name that pays homage to his unique journey with GP calling back to Gypsy Prince.

The first shop is located in a back alley in Hatsudai, overlooking high-rise buildings. (Photo provided by G☆P COFFEE ROASTER)

“We want our customers to enjoy coffee in a cup and saucer, rather than just a simple mug,” insists Gousuke in regards to maintaining the traditional café style. (Photo provided by G☆P COFFEE ROASTER)

Initially, the shop had a roasting machine on the premises, making the space quite cramped, so he operated it more like a coffee stand. However, he had always envisioned creating a traditional café-like atmosphere, so in 2021 he moved the roasting facility to a separate location and renovated the shop to be a cozy space where customers could leisurely enjoy their coffee.

The shelves are now lined with cups and saucers he has collected from his travels, and the walls display his carefully curated selection of records and beloved books. The result is a harmonious blend of retro Showa-era ambiance and hippie culture, embodying Gousuke’s unique essence.

(Photo provided by G☆P COFFEE ROASTER)

“Coffee isn’t something that’s necessary for mere ‘living,’ but it’s indispensable for ‘life’ itself… and that ambiguity is what makes it so appealing to me,” Gousuke muses. He wants customers to cherish the time spent drinking coffee, even more than the taste itself.

“For example, in the Hatsudai shop, the late afternoon light streaming in calls for some ambient music. Around dusk, I’ll play jazz vocals, and as it gets darker, I’ll put on Asukawa Maki records.” Music, he believes, is an essential element in creating a pleasant atmosphere. He also aims to suggest coffee pairings that capture the ambiance of a quiet rainy day or the sound of swaying trees.

“Coffee is a sacred gift from the earth.” he firmly believes.

In addition to his meticulous roasting, Gousuke also carefully curates the music played in the shop, ranging from instrumental to jazz, soul, and reggae – whatever he feels pairs best with his coffee. When the Hatsudai shop celebrated its 5th anniversary, he collaborated with the venerable Gen-emon Kiln in Arita to create original cup and saucer sets (pictured right) featuring a design inspired by coffee beans.(Photo provided by G☆P COFFEE ROASTER)

The Enoshima shop, which opened in June 2022, is situated by the waterfront, allowing the sunlight and sounds of the wind to become integral elements of the space.(Photo provided by G☆P COFFEE ROASTER)

Pure-Hearted in the Pursuit of Robust Dark Roast Coffee

The traditional roasting machine requires the utmost precision in controlling the heat.

The roasting machine Gousuke chose as his trusted companion after going independent is a direct-fire “Fuji Royal 103” model from about 30 years ago. It’s akin to a manual transmission car that requires careful monitoring of its temperament as you drive. The challenge of maintaining consistent roasting by precisely adjusting the damper and flames with each batch is counterbalanced by the joy of mastering the machine. Depending on the equipment, a typical dark roast can be achieved in around 15 minutes, but Gousuke takes about 30 minutes to roast 2kg of green beans at a time.

The current roasting facility is housed in a converted motorcycle garage. The ever-changing roasting profiles tailored to the season and temperature are randomly posted on the walls.

“A single second can make all the difference in the taste. If I complete the roasting process even just a little too early, something will be missing, but even slightly late and the beans will become overly bitter and tainted. The residual heat also continues to affect the beans, so I have to factor that in as well.” he explains.

Through repetition and experience, Gousuke has learned to listen closely to the beans, until they seem to tell him, “Now is the time!” – that crucial one-second moment in the roasting process that he has honed to perfection.

Gosuke’s trusted roasting machine runs at full capacity for 8-9 hours a day.

“For truly deep, dark roasts, direct-fire roasting is essential to bring out the best aroma,” he explains, adjusting the flames in precise 1mm increments.

Gousuke’s ideal dark roast is one that produces a dense, caramel-like ‘sweetness’ when the coffee is brewed. Rather than relying solely on past data based on season, temperature, and weather, he judges by closely observing the color of the beans and listening to the sound of them tumbling inside the roaster. While he has a core lineup of 8-10 single-origin coffees, he actually handles around 20 different bean varieties at any given time. This is not just to relentlessly pursue his vision of the perfect roast, but also to allow for experimental play and exploration.

It is through this meticulous, almost obsessive process that Gousuke has created the essence of G☆P COFFEE ROASTER – his painstakingly roasted, one-of-a-kind ‘ultra-dark’ coffee that he considers the pinnacle of his craft.

He frequently checks the wrinkles, color, and puffiness of the beans, carefully timing each step.

There is a palpable tension when the moment of roasting completion arrives.

Hand-picking is done twice – first on the green beans, and again after roasting. “I don’t think there are many others who are as meticulous about hand-picking as I am.” he says with pride, and this dedication is evident in the deep, clear flavor of his coffee.

After the beans are roasted, they are carefully hand-picked once more and then aged for a period of several days to two months, which further enhances their depth and complexity. The coffee beans, now jet black and glossy after this lengthy process, can then be enjoyed by those who choose to brew them using either paper filters or flannel drippers.

For those who want a clean, light-bodied yet deep flavor profile, Gousuke recommends the paper filter method. But for those who want to fully savor the coffee’s rich oils and fats, he suggests the flannel dripper.

“With the flannel dripper, the coffee develops an incredibly deep, almost endless complexity – bitterness and sweetness expanding like the universe itself. Yet there is still a beautiful, lingering sweetness that balances it all out.”

Meticulously preparing the flannel dripper and serving a shot from the early days of the Enoshima store. Nowadays, customers can enjoy coffee brewed by Jitsugi himself at various events. (Photo provided by G☆P COFFEE ROASTER)

When asked what he hopes to convey through a single cup of coffee, Gousuke answers, “I think coffee is a time for people to reflect on themselves.” It seems the worldview of the famous Japanese Bhuddist monk, scholar, and artist ‘Kukai’, has become the focus of his fascination and forms the foundation of his approach. “If I truly understand Kukai’s teachings, I might be able to hear the beans’ voices even more clearly, and refine my roasting even further to create mind-blowing coffee.” he says, his eyes shining with the enthusiasm of a teenager.

When I first tried coffee from G☆P COFFEE ROASTER, I was struck by its depth and paradoxical clarity – perhaps a testament to the pure-heartedness that Gousuke brings to his craft.

◾️SHOP DATA
G☆P COFFEE ROASTER
Website:https://gpcoffee.base.shop/
Instagram:@gp_coffee_roaster

G☆P COFFEE ROASTER Hatsudai Store
Address: 2-28-4 Honmachi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Phone: 080-5324-0548

G☆P COFFEE ROASTER Enoshima Store
Address: 113-8 Katase Kaigan, Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa
Phone: 0466-65-0209

(Photo provided by G☆P COFFEE ROASTER)

◾️COFFEE
Roast Level: Dark Roast to Ultra-Dark Roast
Roaster: Fuji Royal 103 model from 1993 / Direct-fire type
Brewing: Flannel Drip / Kalita Wave (Hasami-yaki)
Varieties: Single-Origin (8-10 types), Blends (House Blend / Romantic Blend inspired by a Taisho-era cafe)
Water: Soft Water
Cups: Vintage and original cups & saucers

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Takako Kabasawa

Takako Kabasawa is a Creative Director who specializes in writing and editing for women's magazines and books, as well as corporate concept work and branding. She is well-versed in Japanese culture, including kimono and tea ceremony, as well as regional handcraft cultures. In 2023, inspired by the world of fashion, she co-founded the brand KOTOWA with three friends to bring a fashionable approach to enjoying kimono. https://www.k-regalo.info/

Photo by Chika Okazumi

Chika starting her freelance photography career in 2002. From 2010 to 2017, she split her time between Los Angeles and Tokyo, honing her craft and expanding her horizons. Today, she continues to work extensively in various mediums, including magazines, advertisements, and web magazines.
https://www.chikaokazumi.net

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