Local Brew: Wakayama Farm Looks to Put Domestically Grown Coffee on the Map

Guide to Japan Food and Drink

Inside a greenhouse at Nanki Shirahama Farms in Wakayama Prefecture, Aoki Takanao and other pickers busily pluck red berries from coffee trees. Harvesting of the farm’s 313 plants, which are spread across four greenhouses on roughly 1,000 square meters of land, will run until February and produce some 200 kilograms of coffee beans.

Aoki, who headed a construction firm in nearby Tanabe for over 30 years before switching careers, began cultivating coffee beans as a way to attract younger generations to agriculture. After buying land in the Hiki area of Shirahama, he set up his agricultural firm Advance 4 Company in 2020 to oversee the farm’s operations.

Considering how only a handful of areas in Japan grow coffee, he sees an opportunity to make the much-sought-after beans a specialty of the prefecture. This, he hopes, will give a much needed boost to surrounding communities who have seen their populations dwindle as residents age or move away in search of better opportunities. He has harvested two batches of berries so far this year and plans to start selling his organically grown Typica beans, a variety of Arabica coffee, from mid-December.

Aoki believes in the potential of coffee. He says that his crop from last year received high marks, with people praising the coffee made from the beans as fragrant and easy to drink.

After picking, beans must be separated from the pulp of the fruit, then dried and roasted, a process that Aoki hopes to have members of the general public experience firsthand, along with other aspects of farming.

Coffee berries ripen in the Wakayama sun.
Coffee berries ripen in the Wakayama sun.

The beans grown at Nanki Shirahama Farms are starting to gain interest with retailers. One such firm is the Hankyū department store in Kawanishi, Hyōgo Prefecture, which has plans to sell Aoki’s coffee. Employees of the outlet recently visited the farm to pick berries as part of the project.

As demand grows, Aoki explains that he is looking to take advantage of fallow land in surrounding areas to plant more trees and increase production. “My hope is that by bringing more farmland back into cultivation,” he says, “it’ll reinvigorate the area.”

(Originally published in Japanese on Kyōdoshi.com on October 29, 2022. Translated and edited by Nippon.com. Banner photo: Aoki Takanao, left, and other pickers harvest coffee berries at Nanki Shirahama Farms in Wakayama Prefecture. All photos © Kii Mimpō.)


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