Niseko has no shortage of cafes, hotels and restaurants serving coffee. For the coffee connoisseur the task is much more daunting. Very few of the coffees we tasted were satisfying to a degree on comes to expect from a metropolitan city like Tokyo, New York or Paris. We were not expecting to find an espresso that hit the high standards we are used to in a big city. We did find one though. Its name is Mountain Kiosk Coffee Stand and what follows is the inspiring story of collaboration between passionate Niseko locals combining their respective talents to create a highly accessible kiosk offering fantastic coffee. It’s name is Mountain Kiosk Coffee Stand, Ihara Hiromasa is its purveyor and the coffee beans are provided by local master roaster Takano Coffee.
What brings an outsider to Niseko is almost always the powder snow. What makes them stay are the common values shared within the small community. We could call it a quest to find a better way of life. The ability to carve ones own path and spend most of your living time doing just what you want to do. Many would say it is a commonly held goal among all of us. Those that do it seem to be far fewer than the rest who only have hope.
Ihara Hiromasa was raised in nearby Kutchan. During his late teens he began to travel a lot, participating in snowboard competitions across Europe and the United States. Eventually he became the professional snowboarder he is today, gaining sponsorships along the way from brands like ROME SDS, REVOLT, NISEKO GRAND HIRAFU and SNOMAN. When he wasn’t skiing he found himself visiting the many cafes present in his ski destinations. Over time he became enamoured with cafe culture which led to him seriously thinking about opening cafe back in his hometown. There comes a time in every pro athletes life when the body will no longer keep pace with elite athletes. It starts to slow down. The big question then becomes what to do with oneself? Ihara’s barista apprenticeship began in a cafe in Kutchan leading eventually to him becoming an understudy of a Barista Champion friend. Next step was to find a location. A tea shop in nearby Kutchan came first but landlord issues forced them to close. He quickly bounced back and just last year a deal was struck with Tokyu Resort. Ihara’s dream had materialized and Mountain View Coffee Shop was born.
Mountain View Coffee Stand is a collaboration of sorts between a pro snowboarder and an ex-salaryman from Tokyo. Not content to just buy beans he has joined forces with local master roaster Takano Coffee. Takano chooses both the beans and the depth of roasting, customized to fit each coffee bean type. Ihara supervises the various steps including coffee condition, roasting time, temperature and storage humidity. Serving consistently great quality coffee is their mission. The impressive branding on display throughout the coffee stand – Ihara proudly nods when I ask if this is also his doing.
Takano-san came to Niseko to escape the everyday grind of big city – big company life. Better to make a living doing what you want than waste away in the anonymous monotony of a salaryman job in the city. He and his wife have embraced their freedom and taken coffee roasting to an exceptional level. Their style of roasting results in beans with a sensitive aroma and yet a rich, long lasting flavor through the mid-palate and onto the finish. Usually type of depth in flavoring is achieved through longer roasting at lower temperatures. We tasted coffee made from a light Ethiopian single bean through to the dark French blend used for Mountain View espressos and lattés. In all cases the flavor was balanced, smooth, subtle and rich. We even did a side by side comparison with one of Tokyo’s better coffee roasters and the Takano blend held sway.
The staff at Mountain View Coffee Stand is made of local residents who combine fluency in multi-languages with ski knowledge and recently learned barista skills. Meticulous and focused when extracting coffee and charming when conversing with customers. One staff member has a small plot organic farm nearby while the other juggles serious snowboarding with her day job. Both are well trained which is a key reason why this coffee stands above others. On multiple visits the espresso and latté were consistent in taste, texture and presentation.
ESPRESSO: Deep mahogany hue with a velvety la crema leading into dark roasted cacao flavors. This was nicely balanced between acidity and richness. It’s dark roasted flavors knew their limits and stopped before becoming overbearing. The bean roasting is magnificent and the staff on a variety of days knew exactly how to compose the espresso. Even when busy there is a calmness behind the counter that allows them to focus in on delivering a beautifully executed espresso.
CAFE LATTE: these coffee beans really have a high affinity for milk. Deep chocolate flavors seem to sing and are even better with the creamy milk fat to smooth out its aggressive bite. Outside of Normandy, France this could be the best milk in the world. WOW! What a combination. Loved the drizzeled milk design on top of the darkly blended latte below. You could easily call this a chocolate latte even without cocoa powder. I woke up the next morning and had a massive craving for another. That’s how good it was.
KIOSK STYLE: Homemade Snacks made by Ihara’s wife are beautifully presented in a package combining both rustic and delicate labelling. Housemade and using mostly organic ingredients these snacks deliver a healthier dose of energy replacement to skiers. A chocolate brownie was soft, rich and buttery with the a soft and crumbling texture. A large cookie was soft and packed with chunks of chocolate delivering pure flavors that were especially pleasing when consumed with a Mountain View coffee. The oatmeal bar also on offer would make an extra-healthy energy snack between ski runs or even a light meal replacement for those skiers too enamoured with the powder snow to stop for lunch. A slightly drier mouth feel indicated the absence of excessive butter fats making it an appealing choice for those with their health foremost on their mind.
LOCATION: At the base of Mount Annupuri in Hirafu on the left side of the Welcome Center (beside the Bus Terminal)
HOURS: Mon – Sun: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
ADDRESS: 倶知安町字山田204 ウェルカムセンター横, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, Japan 044-0081