One of the go-to spots in Kagoshima City for a decent coffee, Coffee Soldier is located on Terukuni-dori, just a short walk from both Tenmonkan shopping arcade and Terukuni Shrine. You might miss the unassuming, minimal exterior when walking past, if not for the chalk boards outside listing the menu and the rich fragrance of freshly roasted coffee lingering in the air.
Owner Takemoto Shunichi started out as a pâtissier but changed over to coffee after being inspired by a professional barista and his dedication to trying to make the perfect coffee right in front of the customer. Takemoto says, “When making cakes it’s pretty common to make sponge the night before and chill it overnight. I never really liked this because I always wanted to serve customers freshly made sweets. I thought if I had a shop of my own, I would make everything from scratch on the same day.”
A glance over the chalkboard menu shows the usual line up – latte, cappuccino, espresso; but also sweeter alternatives like caramel macchiato and an espresso banana shake ideal for the hot Kagoshima summer. This kind of coffee stand is a comparatively recent addition to the Kagoshima food and drink scene, and Takemoto recalls how he got started in coffee while deftly lacing the nut brown surface of a latte with stokes of white froth.
“The barista became my mentor and I got a job working in his coffee shop.” After several years of studying under his mentor, Takemoto entered and won the All Japan Barista Championships twice before opening his own shop in 2013. The third wave of coffee had yet to hit Kagoshima, but Takemoto soon amassed a loyal following via social media promotion and word of mouth.
Takemoto roasts his own coffee beans in house and evaluates each year’s crop carefully before choosing which varieties to sell. “High quality coffee is affected by factors like sunlight, soil quality, humidity, and timing of the harvest so the quality can vary from year to year,” he says. “At Coffee Soldier we spend a lot of time selecting beans, and we use different beans each year to ensure the highest quality.”
In the future Takemoto hopes to expand the Coffee Soldier brand, selling more beans for people to enjoy at home, and also open up another store somewhere in Kagoshima. For now, Takemoto sums up his thoughts on travellers visiting the region. “I hope that people visiting Kagoshima can stop by Coffee Soldier, take a break and enjoy premium coffee, lovingly made one cup at a time.”