“To me, coffee beans are as complicated as the formation of the universe.”
Nature, urban landscapes, wood grain, the perception of life, these elements together complete the taste of Iwano Hibiki’s coffee beans. Every month, Hibiki picks a new theme for the beans he roasts. Some of the themes that he came up with before include “The world of sound”, “Traces”, and “The ups and downs of the roasted aroma and sweetness”. Right above his flat in the mountains of Kiryū, a Japanese city in Gunma Prefecture, is his coffee roaster. This is an additional story to his house that Hibiki’s father built for him. Outside of the window wall of his shop is a grand view of the entire town. One of Hibiki’s habits is to take a stroll in the woodland near his shop; he enjoys touching the half-dried greyish tree bark, the rustic steel signage while listening to the sound of nature.
Iwano Hibiki took a leave of absence from school after being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. During his absence from school, Hibiki would spend time preparing food for his family. This was when his parents realized how strong his sense is towards the aroma and taste of food. One time when preparing curry, Hibiki had a particular taste in his mind that he really wanted to achieve. There he added coffee into the curry, which turned out surprisingly tasty. Coffee is, in fact, the taste that he has learned to appreciate as early as in elementary school. Hibiki, in his fifth grade, would use his pocket money to get himself a black coffee at the dimly lit cafes. Before growing into an adult, he already knew to adore the laid-back vibe and the bitter taste.
Hibiki has been trained by two master coffee roasters. While Orimasa Furuya of Itoya Coffee in Kiryu taught him the skill of light roasting, Katsuji Daibo of Daibo Coffee in Tokyo trained him with the technique of deep roasting. It was also through Daibo that Hibiki got to understand the beauty of the blend of sweetness and bitterness.
In spring 2017, Hibiki opened his shop at the age of 15. It is a roaster that only sells coffee beans without serving coffee. The name Horizon Labo was inspired by Hibiki’s family trip to Thailand. Sailing on a boat, looking at the infinite horizon, he suddenly realized that it is completely fine to be different from others. Horizon Labo is the laboratory that allows him to explore his own infinite horizon.
On a winter day, he wrote a remark of the beans he roasted that month. They are cold, round and temporary, Like the smokey and sweet light. My winter memory is so subtle. A brew of sweetness, bitterness, and sourness; I wish you could share with me this taste and aroma.