Dear Deer Coffee Roasting Bar is the only place in Auckland where you can pick your own unroasted coffee beans and see them roasted right in front of you.
It’s an almost impossible feat to ‘stumble upon’ Yuki Shikano’s coffee roasting bar – in fact, it’s even kind of hard to find on purpose. An arrow points you around the corner to an unassuming shop, with barely enough room to swing a DSLR camera (I know this because I accidentally did it). But, as the smell of freshly roasted coffee will alert you to, it’s a very good place to be if you're partial to a cup or two.
Dear Deer Coffee Roasting Bar is the only place in Auckland where you can pick your own unroasted coffee beans, choose between a light, medium or dark roast, have it roasted in front of you in an electric air-roasting machine from Japan, then ground and made into a cup of joe right then and there. It’s a novelty and really quite cool; it makes you feel connected to the process in a way which beans in a sealed-in bag could never achieve. The beans whirl around in the machine, looking like popcorn kernels bursting, lit up neon and yellow. They get left to cool for a second before being put in a bag for you to take home.
Shikano has a range of his own true and tested blends – including the Dear Deer Original Blend, which gets my tick of approval – as well as single origin beans from all over the globe, which you are welcome to mix and match to create your own blend. “Some of my customers’ tastes are… weird,” he says wryly. But he’s on hand to lend advice based on your own personal preferences, and also on which origins may go well together. According to him, it’s all a matter of balance.
There's a leisurely ease to the whole process, right up to Shikano’s lazy circular pouring as he makes you your brew. It recalls Japan’s slower coffee culture, where the reigning method is the pour-over.
Shikano uses drippers and filters from Japanese brand Kalita, which you could say is in his blood – his granduncle started the company in the ‘50s, and his father is running a shop with the same concept in his home city of Tokyo. This shop in Onehunga is a result of both family loyalty – his granduncle put him through university, where he completed an economics degree – and genuine passion. Kalita only produces specialist coffee products, “not like Hario, a glassware company which dabbles in coffee equipment,” Shikano says. Note: Hario is Kalita’s biggest competitor.
Filter coffee is in no way new, but it has been picking up steam on the menus of coffee bars across Auckland. And if Shikano had his way, every house in Auckland would have a Kalita dripper. “That’s my ultimate goal,” he says. Really, he just wants people to know there’s another way to enjoy coffee which differs from your usual espresso, although the argument of espresso versus filter bores him. “You don’t ask if red wine or white wine is good – they’re both good.”
Shikano sees himself as an educator of sorts on the existence of a good filter coffee - but you can also have an espresso at Dear Deer, if that's your preference. “My customers will come in and have a flat white, and they like it, but then they get curious about my ‘Japanese Drip Coffee’ which they’ll have with sugar and milk. Soon enough, I’ve got them drinking it black.”
Japanese Drip Coffee is just a sneaky pseudonym for filter, by the way. It’s another way to pique an espresso drinkers’ interest, much like filter coffee’s other pseudonym, “soft brew”.
Well, if it works, then it works. And it seems to be – Shikano is already thinking of opening another pick-your-own-style roastery elsewhere in Auckland.