⟨ Misc ⟩

Using Coffee to Preserve a Village

Nobushina Genmai Coffee

Words / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

植野羽生長於東京這大城市裡,於早稻田大學完成了建築碩士學位,畢業後卻沒有在城市裡從事關於建築的工作,反而來到長野縣一個名為信級的村落,放棄面對鋼筋水泥,改而腳踏泥土,先務農,後來更輾轉研發出玄米咖啡來。

Kakeru Ueno grew up in the Tokyo metropolis. After obtaining his master degree in Architecture from Waseda University, he did not choose to stay in Tokyo to get a job in an architecture firm; instead, he moved to a village called Nobushina in Nagano Prefecture. Forgoing a career that has to deal with cement in Tokyo, he decided to get closer to the soil and pursue the life as a farmer. His experience then brought him to developing the Genmai coffee.

玄米咖啡,顧名思義是由玄米製成的咖啡來,玄米經過烘焙後,再以熱水沖泡,提煉出來的飲料散發著咖啡香,對於喜歡咖啡卻不能吸收咖啡因的人,如孕婦等,著實不錯的解饞良方。

植野羽之所以會研發玄米咖啡,或許該從信級的歷史說起。信級在太古時代曾是海洋,也是世界最古老的鯨魚化石發現地點,經年累月後,信級仍是受著自然惠澤的地方。人們開墾耕地,以地下水種出稻米及蔬菜,住在代代相的木建築之內,一排排的梯田、一間間載滿了家族歷史的古民家,有著難以言傳的魅力。然而,這個小村落就像日本其他鄉郊一樣,面對著人口老化的問題,如長久下去,農田大概會荒廢,而古民家也會老朽。

植野羽對此憂心的同時,在一次偶爾的機會下,他往信級造炭的工場幫忙,並發現燒好的炭自窯取出來後,熱騰騰的窯需經長時間才能冷卻,他決定利用這段時間,把村民門種植的玄米放進窯來,烘焙出玄米咖啡,這不但可以為村落帶來新的收入,同時,顧客也因為玄米咖啡,而開始對信級感到興趣。植野羽算是為復興村落踏出了重要一步。

植野羽現時正計劃將村內的廢校修葺重用,另一方面,在東京開設提供玄米咖啡的Cafe,希望透過這些計劃,令更多人看到信級的美。

Kakeru Ueno grew up in the Tokyo metropolis. After obtaining his master degree in Architecture from Waseda University, he did not choose to stay in Tokyo to get a job in an architecture firm; instead, he moved to a village called Nobushina in Nagano Prefecture. Forgoing a career that has to deal with cement in Tokyo, he decided to get closer to the soil and pursue the life as a farmer. His experience then brought him to developing the Genmai coffee.

Genmai coffee is made with the Japanese brown rice, Genmai. Brewed from baked Genmai with hot water, the drink smells of a strong coffee fragrance. This can be one of the best resolutions for coffee lovers who need to avoid caffeine, pregnant women for example.

The story of Ueno’s Genmai coffee has to be traced all the way back to the history of Nobushina. The area where the village is now was once part of the ocean during the Archean Eon, it is also the place where the oldest whale fossils in history were unearthed. This piece of land continues to be rich in resources even until today. The villagers grow rice and vegetables on the terraced fields using underground water. Generations after generations, they reside in the wooden houses near the fields. These traditional houses are charismatic containers of beautiful histories of the families they have been sheltering over the years. Unfortunately, the small Japanese villages all share the same aging problem. Sooner or later, the farmland would be abandoned, the houses would deteriorate.

Ueno was very concerned about the situation. On a random occasion, he went to help out in a charcoal factory in Nobushina. Since the charcoal needs a rather long time to cool down after being taken out of the kiln, he put some of the Genmai farmed by the villages into the kiln and got his first batch of Genmai coffee. Not only did Genmai coffee bring a new source of income to the village, it also aroused customers’ interest in the Nobushina village. And so, Ueno has made his first and significant move to revive the village.

Apart from restoring and reutilizing the abandoned school building, Ueno is also planning to open a cafe in Tokyo that serves Genmai coffee. The ultimate goal of these projects is to allow the beauty of Nobushina to be seen by a wider audience.