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N He filmed ad “No photos,” says Katsuyuki Tanaka. In his shop, this nondescript, merely 49-square-foot espresso bar in Tokyo’s hip Shimokitazawa district, photography is prohibited. Those who whip out their mobile phones and snap one regardless are at risk of quickly being shown the door by the owner. In Bear Pond Espresso, different rules apply than elsewhere. “I am a hippie,” says Katsuyuki. A mindset that the man who was once on the move as a successful marketer in New York champions with each new day. With Tokyo’s best espresso and some, shall we say, idiosyncrasies. In the mid-1990s, Katsu, as everyone here calls him, lived in New York’s artsy East Village. Working up to 20-hour shifts for FedEx as a global manager, he always drank his espresso in the same café. It was a time when no one wanted to spend more than a dollar for a cup of coffee — donut included. In this way, the shop on 9th Street was unusual: The people there roasted the beans that they sourced from the Counter Culture Coffee company in North Carolina themselves. Every Thursday afternoon, coffee tastings were held in front of the café. Today they’re called “cuppings”. Over the years the Japanese native regularly drank coffee in his high-stress job. He came to be well versed in the varieties and the stories behind them. One day, just for fun, he took part in one of these cuppings. “In front of me stood five cups. I had to guess the origin of the coffee,” Katsu recalls. “With the first sip, I tasted beans from Brazil. Right! With the second, beans from Mexico. Right! With the third, Guatemala. Bingo! The bystanders around us started to pay attention when I got the fourth and fifth coffees right.” A reporter from the New York Times who was present asked to interview him. spots with Diego Maradona and later worked as a package manager in New York. Today Japanese native Katsuyuki Tanaka serves the most exclusive coffee in the world. But not for everyone. 158


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