Coffee connoisseur and self-taught bean freak Justin Xiong not only wanted to share his passion for coffee with the masses, but, in his Longwood coffee house La Kuma, wanted to offer exacting and precise cups of coffee with Japanese flair.
When did you have your first taste of coffee?
I was 10 years old when I first tried coffee. It was bitter and unpleasant, because it was just burnt convenience store coffee. Then when I got into middle school, I was introduced to the "gateway drug" for a lot of the coffee drinkers – cafe mocha. At first, I only treated it as a liquid dessert because of how sweet it usually is. Then I discerned the lightly bitter element that balanced out the drink, and I was hooked on the taste of coffee.
You're a Taiwanese person running a Japanese coffee shop. What made you veer toward a Japanese-style cafe as opposed to, say, a Taiwanese-style cafe employing coffee beans from Taiwan?
Taiwanese culture is heavily influenced by Japanese culture, especially over the past century or so. I was always amazed by Japanese dedication to craftsmanship. The deeper I delve into the world of coffee, the more I am attracted by Japanese coffee culture and the way the Japanese treat their coffee. It is a balance of science and art. It is so precise and yet so elegant. All I had in mind was providing an intoxicating coffee experience with an affordable price. To bring the best experience, we actually source organic and freshly roasted coffee beans from a local roaster partner, Blessed Bean Coffee. We use top-quality, organic milk and milk alternatives to pair with our coffee. Then we brew the coffee with the right equipment, at an accurate water temperature using precise procedural and brewing methods. We take great care in offering a quality cup of coffee.
What effect has your immigrant experience had on the restaurant's evolution?
American coffee culture is very different from what I am used to. Coffee here is more of a quick fix to the post-wakeup syndrome many people experience, instead of savoring the experience. Given my love of coffee, it's quite difficult for me to see people just gulp it down instead of enjoying an intoxicating experience. So I made it my mission to preach about the Japanese coffee experience, which led to the creation of La Kuma Coffee.(lakumacoffee.com) ▲