One of the most approachable, beloved, and indeed, respected and admired World Barista Champions is without question Hidenori Izaki of Japan, who won the WBC in 2014 in Rimini, Italy. Hidenori ”or Hide (pronounced “HEE-day”) for short ”wasted no time after winning the sought-after title to welcome coffee professionals of all levels of experience to ask him questions, approach him for discussions, or just become friends. He truly shined as a global ambassador for the best things about specialty coffee during his time as WBC champion, and after the conclusion of his reign, continued to reach out to the international coffee community to contribute however he could to making our industry better and better.
Hide is delighted to announce the launch of Samurai Coffee Experience, an organization managed by Hide that offers consultancy services, product development, public relations, and more. Samurai Coffee Experience was officially started in January of this year.
At the time that he won the WBC and continuing afterwards, Hide proudly worked for Maruyama Coffee, owned by coffee industry legend Kentaro Maruyama. As an esteemed mentor to Hide, Kentaro played a valuable role in Hide’s journey to deciding to start Samurai Coffee Experience. “One of the most precious experiences of my life was with Maruyama Coffee, to have a master and father in coffee like Kentaro Maruyama, who is the hardest worker I’ve ever seen in this industry, and an innovator who has been leading this industry further,” says Hide.
Among the first tasks Hide set after in 2014 was taking on Australian Sasa Sestic to train for his national championship. Having come close to winning in the extremely competitive country of Australia numerous times, Sasa was delighted to win top honors in 2015 after training closely with Hide for months. Training didn’t slow down after the national competition, however, and Sasa and Hide focused intensely on preparations for the World Barista Championship to take place in Seattle. Hide couldn’t have been happier to see his colleague ”and, after all that time together, his dear friend ”Sasa named World Barista Champion in 2015. The time Hide spent with Sasa was not only successful in the end, but inspiring and exceptionally enjoyable. It played a great role in Hide’s decision to launch Samurai Coffee Experience.
But Hide says Samurai offers a lot more than barista competition training ”though that’s certainly a part of it. To get a better understanding about Hide’s exciting new business, we sat down with him for an interview.
Hidenori Izaki: We offer mainly consulting services, product development, PR, etc. In consulting services, we are mainly focused on the education side ”building up an efficient education system for baristas, and personalized quality-control systems for established businesses. We will continue to work with World Barista Championship competitors from the coaching side to produce the next generation of real coffee ambassadors who have the right mentality and heart. We’ll keep working with baristas from all over the world. We are also keen to work on product development as it relates to all coffee equipment in an effort to improve quality and functionality. We believe innovations are always coming from collaborations with users and manufacturers. My intention for the product development side of Samurai is not only to benefit the coffee professional, but also coffee lovers, and even those who don’t care about coffee (yet!). We’d like normal consumers to have a big interest in coffee, and continue consuming. We believe promotions are also really important, because unfortunately, the average consumers don’t know about the WBC, or even specialty coffee. We want our work to appeal to and serve a wider range of people than just those who already believe in specialty. We are willing to collaborate with other industries like wine, food, pastry, or even fashion, for instance, to approach coffee from different perspectives.
Barista Magazine: What barista competitors have you worked with in the past, and who are you working with now?
Hidenori Izaki: Sasa Sestic, founder of ONA Coffee and Project Origin from Canberra, Australia; Diego Campos of Amor Perfecto from Colombia; Miki Suzuki of Maruyama Coffee from Japan. I’m now working with Charlotte Malaval from France. She just won her national championship, so we are now preparing for her performance at the WBC in Dublin in June!
Barista Magazine: What will Samurai Coffee Experience offer that is currently not available anywhere else?
Hidenori Izaki: We believe our uniqueness is that we can consult not only from the quality perspective, but also about hospitality and education on a global level. We believe it is critical that the specialty-coffee industry consider the real importance of hospitality. We’re all passionate about quality, but hospitality is essential, as well. It is the key to attracting customers, and it brings a sense of magic to coffee that makes the experience of a beautiful coffee even better. We believe hospitality education is necessary for taking the specialty-coffee industry further, and we are unique in our understanding of this.
Barista Magazine: What do you hope to accomplish with Samurai Coffee Experience?
Hidenori Izaki: Our mission is for our clients to come away with an understanding of the value of a cup of coffee by learning to serve exceptional coffee with the highest level of hospitality. We would like to see the world filled with a lot of smiles and happiness coming through coffee.
Barista Magazine: Why is the specialty-coffee community so special to you? Why do you love it and want to work within it?
Hidenori Izaki: It’s all about the people who work in this industry. What I have learned during my career is that coffee is all about relationships. It’s like a thread from producer to roaster to barista to consumers. Yes, it is “just” a cup of coffee, but there are a lot of stories behind the cup ”it’s fascinating. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your background is ”when we’re drinking coffee together, we are all equal. During the past several years, coffee has brought me to a lot of countries and I have met a lot of people. I believe coffee has a power to unite people, and coffee people tend to be fantastic! This is why I love working within this industry.