Monzennakacho Monz Cafe

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Monzennakacho is a very cool neighborhood that is close to the heart of Tokyo. Accessible via the Tozai or Oedo subway lines. Part of the area abuts the Sumidagawa River and there is a river that runs through it that offers boat rides under the cherry blossoms in spring.  I lived here for a few years and love this area very much. There are a few temples in the area including the Tomioka Hachimangu and Fukagawa Fudosan, as well as a big festival every three years in the summer. My favorite pickle restaurant in Tokyo, Kintame, has a shop just in front of the Fukagawa Fudosan.

A new addition to the area is Monz Cafe, hip cafe on the old street that leads from the Tozai station exit to the Fukagawa Fudosan temple. On this spring day the windows and doors are wide open. Two young girls are behind the counter. Inside is tight seating for 18. There is a small glass case with some baked goods like pound and chiffon cakes. The limited food menu includes panini and Eggs Benedict. My “flat white” is like a cappuccino, but with more milk. The coffee is rich, but not too bitter or dark. The cafe has a light and refreshing feel to it. A great spot to grab coffee with a friend, or perhaps a coffee after a pickle lunch at Kintame.

I asked one of the girls behind the counter what this was prior and she said it used to be an amazaké shop. She pointed to the space above the door and they have retained the old sign. A small gesture, but one that is perfect for this neighborhood, which still retains the feel of shitamachi, the heart of old Tokyo.

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Monz Cafe

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-5

03-6873-0835

Monday – Friday 8:00-19:00

Weekends and holidays 9:00-18:00

One minute from Tozai exit #1.

Omotesando Koffee

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Omotesando Koffee, while known for its good coffee, it is perhaps more famous for its “ko-hi- kashi” or coffee sweet. Kunitomo-san at the shop said it is a baked purin, which is like a creme custard, but that flour is added to the mixture. It has a crispy crust and is soft and eggy inside. Dangerous if you come hungry as one could easily go through several of these.

The quality of the coffee is excellent here. My girlfriend’s latte had a nice proportion of milk to espresso. I indulged and got a Bailey’s espresso. The aroma of the Baileys reminded the both of us of our days at Midwestern liberal arts colleges. Amazing how just smelling the Baileys brought back memories from 25 years ago. Next time I will get the Baileys with some milk.

The shop card are coffee filters that are also used for serving the ko-hi- kashi. Brilliant. I teased him asking if I could recycle these at home as coffee filters and he said we could.

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Here is the exterior of the shop. It is on the first floor of a residential home, which could explain why the shop does not open until 10 a.m. We got there a bit early and it was fun to watch the rituals of preparing the small garden in front of the shop before opening the gate.

The handsome Kunitomo-san in a light blue lab coat is very friendly. We spoke only in Japanese but on our way out some Americans came in and we could hear him speaking English. It was raining this morning so we stood inside and had our coffee tachi-nomi style. If the weather is good there are two small benches in the narrow garden in front of the shop. But, this is not a place you want to linger for long at.

Omotesando Koffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-15-3

03-5413-9422

10:00 – 19:00 daily

* Omotesando Koffee is right behind Maisen tonkatsu. The perfect spot for a coffee after tonkatsu.

Viron Boulangerie

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My go-to lunch when on a run is a sandwich from Viron. Excellent baguettes with a chewy crumb that can stand up to the crispy exterior. The sandwiches are classic French-style including pate de campagne, rillettes, and jambon.

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The large window display case in the front of the store has a dizzying array of sandwiches and pastries.

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The breads are authentic and take me back to France. The baguette is my favorite, but also excellent kouign amann and fougasse as well. Of course, much more than you would pay for in France, but it is a treat to have such great bread in Tokyo. Flour is brought in from France to make Viron’s signature retrador baguette and other breads. There is also a brasserie at each location. Viron has a branch at Marunouchi in front of Tokyo Station and in Shibuya. Now, if they would only expand and open more branches around the city.

Viron Marunouchi

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-7-3, TOKIA Bldg. 1st floor

03-5220-7289

Viron Shibuya

Shibuya-ku, Udagawacho 33-8, Tsukuda Bldg.

03-5458-1770

Could This Be Tokyo’s Best Coffee?

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One of the great pleasures of giving food tours in Tokyo is meeting passionate people who introduce me to spots in Tokyo. The metropolis is so big that it is impossible to make it to every shop that you want to go to. Sometimes it takes someone to put a shop back on your radar. This was the case with Chatei Hatou. I first came across in it Oliver Strand’s piece in the New York Times Magazine. It’s in Shibuya, an area that I often go to. However, it is in a part of Shibuya that I rarely get to. So, it was on my Go List, but not high on the list. Until a great client who knows his coffee told me that I absolutely must go and check it out. He warned me that a cup of coffee would set me back $15. He also mentioned that while there were a variety of cups behind the counter, that customers did not select one, but that the master would size me up and choose one for me.

I finally found myself in the back streets of Shibuya. Walking in the area I realized I must be somewhere in the vicinity of Chatei Hatou and I pulled out my Go List and made a beeline for the shop. Well, beeline is a stretch, as I did get lost once. That’s good for a city where most streets do not have a name.

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Just down a side street off of a major street and up a few meters from the Lacoste. The narrow shopfront sticks out on the street. It has charm and character and could have been modeled after a ski house in Europe.  The interior is dark and there is a lot of bric-a-brac on the walls on tables. I am guessing accumulated over the years as it opened in 1989. Walking in I knew I was back in Japan as it did smell of tobacco smoke. Bummer, but it wasn’t too smoky and I had to try what my friend said was one of the best coffees in the city.

I was seated at the counter, just in front of the master. I ordered a demitasse of “old beans” as it appears on the menu (900 JPY). I was told it would be bitter and he pointed to the demitasse cups. I nodded in approval and the dance began. The beans were grounded, put into a sock, and then the master used a small, flat wooden spatula and shaped the ground beans in the sock into a mountain shape. He then started to slowly and purposefully pour hot water onto the grounds. What I was amazed at was that he did not put the sock over a coffee pot or cup. He continued to pour water and the grounds started to expand and soak up the hot water. After pouring for a while he finally put the sock over a small glass carafe to capture the coffee. I was mesmerized at his attention to each detail. Hot water was poured into my demitasse as he finished up the coffee. He put the carafe down behind the counter. I am not sure if he was heating it up or what. But after about a minute of my cup being warmed he poured the coffee into the cup and presented it to me. Quite the ceremony. And, a very good cup of coffee. Dark, yet smooth, and only slightly bitter.

The other customers were a mishmash of chatty housewives, single people reading books, a group of guys holding a business meeting. It was surprisingly full at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night. If it were smoke-free I would plan on going back soon. Am glad I took the advice of my friend. It is a unique look into the coffee culture in Tokyo.

Chatei Hatou 茶亭 羽當

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-15-19

03-3400-9088

11:00 – 23:00

no holidays, even open on Sundays

Takano Fruit Shop – Melon Juice

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The hundred dollar muskmelon. Yes, it exists. Most of the cost of the melon, I have been told by a fruit store executive, is for the air-conditioning of the greenhouses in summer or for the heaters in winter. The muskmelon juice at Takano fruit café in Shinjuku Takashimaya is a nice alternative. The shop also has fruit parfaits and sandwiches of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

The café is located on the fifth floor of Shinjuku Takashimaya. The brightly lit restaurant is furnished in white and the windows overlook Shinjuku station. It is an ideal spot to meet with a friend and catch up, or to refresh after some power shopping at Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands which is next door. Takano Fruits main shop is in Shinjuku and has a bigger menu.

Some depachika will have a small counter in the fruit specialty shop. When I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya I was surprised to see how popular these counters can be. Not only with older clientele but also with younger couples with their children.

It’s a luxurious treat and something that can only be experienced in Japan.

Takano Fruit

Shinjuku Takashimaya, 5th floor

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2

Le Pain Quotidien at nonowa Higashi-Koganei

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I lived in Brussels for a year and one of the things I remember the most is the Le Pain Quotidien down the street from my apartment. The bakery opened up early in the morning so I could stop by and get a croissant or pain au chocolat to start the day. The large communal table in the middle of the cafe is perfect when dining solo. On the table were jars of jam and nutty and chocolate spreads for bread. Open-faced tartine sandwiches as well as salads round out the menu here. The menu sadly does not have any Japanese influences. It is pretty much the same menu you’ll see in Belgium or in New York City. A fun shop to come in solo or with some friends.

Le Pain Quotidien is in a new shopping complex that opened up recently, nonowa Higashi-Koganei, which is on the Chuo line between Mitaka and Kokubunji. nonowa can also be found in Nishi-Kokubunji and in Musashi-Sakai, also on the Chuo line. The shops are in the train stations and this Higashi-Koganei shop is all underneath the Chuo line. A smart move to use the space underneath the train tracks. While it’s possible to hear the trains passing above, it is not nearly as noisy as spots like the restaurants underneath the Yamanote line near Yurakucho station.

The organic coffee is served in a bowl. Reminds me of bowls of hot chocolate in Europe. The coffee comes in a pot and is about two cups plus. Next time I come back I will bring some reading with me and settle in and be transported back to Belgium.

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The shop is brightly lit as one wall of windows faces south. On this day there were a few older couples and many young women in the shop. There is a small, but well-stocked bakery in the front of the shop for take-away or for eating in the cafe.

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There is also outdoor seating which will be perfect once the weather warms up. And, operation hours are 7:30 – 22:00.

Le Pain Quotidien has branches in the city. It’s not worth the trek out to Higashi-Koganei. But, if you find yourself traveling on the Chuo line, it’s good to know that it’s here.

Le Pain Quotidien

Koganei-shi, Kajinocho 5-1-1, nonowa Higashi-Koganei

Chuo line, local stop at Higashi-Koganei

042-316-7041

7:30 – 22:00

New York Rings at The Roastery

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I finally scored a New York Ring from The Roastery. Somewhat similar to Dominique Ansel’s famous cronut, it is a doughnut made from croissant dough. While I hear that the cronut is filled with flavored creams, this is simply seasoned with a cinnamon sugar. It’s very rich and filling. And, like the cronut, not the easiest to get your hands on. The first time I went, early in the morning, soon after the store opened, I was told that the NY Rings are not brought to the store until 11 a.m. And, I was warned that they do sell out quickly and another batch comes around 1 p.m. It’s good. Just time your visit around the delivery times, if you want to guarantee you get one. The shop also had a bacon scone that looked good – will save that for a future visit.

The Roastery by Nozy Coffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 5-17-13

8:00 – 20:00

03-6450-5755

The New York Ring was much, much better than the copycat version made by Banderole.

Turret Coffee at Tsukiji

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turret Coffee2Turret Coffee is a godsend for anyone visiting Tsukiji Market. Up until now I couldn’t find a coffee shop that had espresso. Surprising considering that most of Tsukiji’s business takes place in the early morning hours.

Turret Coffee opened in October, 2013. Speaking with the owner, Kiyoshi Kawasaki, he said that business is a little slow. His shop is down a narrow side street off of one of the major streets near Tsukiji’s outer market. It happens to be a few steps beyond a Starbucks. But, if you don’t know about Turret Coffee, you wouldn’t venture beyond Starbucks. Now, you know.

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Kawasaki-san comes from the popular Streamer Coffee shop.Turret Coffee2

Turret is the name of the vehicles the delivery boys drive at Tsukiji Market.
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Espresso is served in ochoko, traditionally used for drinking saké.

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The current seasonal drink is a cinnamon-flavored latte.
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This sign is a welcome site in the early morning. Turret Coffee has about five counter seats and two very small tables with chairs. The shop is opened seven days a week, and opens at 7 a.m. Monday – Saturday. It is located just near the Hibiya station exit #1 or #2. Just about three minutes from the main crossing of Harumi Dori and Shin-Ohashi Dori of Tsukiji’s Outer Market.

Tsukiji will never be the same.

Turret Coffee

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 2-12-6

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Bakery in Kichijoji 吉祥寺ローズベーカリー

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Rose Bakery Morning Salad Set

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Rose Bakery Morning Salad Set

Kichijoji is a great station to visit that is close to both Shinjuku and Shibuya. It can be reached by the Chuo line from Shinjuku or the Inokashira line from Shibuya. Inokashira Koen is a large park just minutes from the station. It is great for walking around and there is even a small zoo at the park. Kichijoji also has an interesting shoutengai (shopping arcade) that is worth exploring. I list some of my favorite shops at the shoutengai in this Metropolis magazine article.

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Rose Bakery Morning Bread Set

But there is a lot to see in the station building, atré. There is a great seafood store, Uoriki, on the first floor, Shinseido bookstore on the 2nd floor, and a Kaldi on the 2nd floor to pick up some imported food products.

The bread is lovely here. A bit dense with a crispy, slightly burnt crust.

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Rose Bakery Morning Scone Set

Rose Bakery is on the first floor near the concierge stand. It is a perfect place to meet friends or to sit alone and catch up on some reading. Rose Bakery has great salads that are served for breakfast. I have come to love these salads so much that it has changed the way I make salads at home. Almost once a day we’ll make a Rose Bakery inspired salad. As you can see in the photos above the salads are simply vegetables in a vinaigrette, sometimes with curry in the vinaigrette. Many of the salads include sesame or sunflower seeds.

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As you can see, Rose Bakery is brightly lit. Perfect for getting some work done or reading.

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On a recent visit there were live plants hanging from the roof.

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The Rose Bakery cookbook is for sale as well as some tea and other ingredients like sunflower seeds.

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“Each main course is a vegetable dish accompanied by meat.” ROSE

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The colorful salads. Now you can understand how this is very inspiring, not only to eat better, but to try and recreate some of these at home. I have only been to Rose Bakery in Japan, and love the use of local produce for the salads.

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My only complaint is that there was water dripping from the plants onto the papers I was editing at the café.

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There is a selection of sweets as well. Rose Bakery also has take-away if you are in a rush.
Rose Bakery started as a shop in England that also has a branch in Paris. Currently there are three shops in Tokyo, all in great locations. Besides the Kichijoji café the others are in Ginza in the new Dover Street complex as well as in Marunouchi.
Another thing I love about Rose Bakery in Kichijoji is that it opens at 8 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends. While Kichijoji has many great cafés, a lot of them don’t open until 10 or 11 a.m.
Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Minami-Machi 1-1-24, Kichijoji atré 1Fphone: 0422-22-1506Ginza 6-9-5, Ginza Komatsu West Wing 7F at Comme des Garcons – Dover Street Market

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-1-1, Meiji Yasuda Seimei Bldg. 1F

Shinjuku Isetan 3F

Tokyo’s Best Coffee – Five Questions for Mal Simpson

While Japan is known for its rich tea culture, there is no shortage of coffee shops, some with a cult following. Many citizens of this fast-paced metropolis stay energized with java. Shochu is more up my alley so I asked a friend, and coffee aficionado, who has made the rounds of Tokyo’s top coffee destinations for his verdict.

Mal Simpson, from Sydney, is part of the management team at Decanter, the flagship restaurant at the Tokyo American Club. See more on Mal below.

1. How did you get into coffee? Do you make coffee at home? If so, where do you buy your beans?

From my café days, the coffee machine was always so close to the kitchen line. When I open new places I always ask the chefs to try the coffee. They seem to know what they like even if they are not connoisseurs as such.

I don’t generally make coffee at home but if in a jam or too lazy to leave the house I use a MyPressi Twist hand held coffee maker. I buy my beans at NOZY Café, great blends and they always change their line up. Plus you get a great discount on a coffee when you buy beans there.

2. What is unique about the Tokyo coffee scene? The siphon coffee? Art work on lattes?

The art on some of these lattes is pretty awesome at some of the joints. Worthy of their own art exhibition for sure. Now there’s an idea! I prefer consistency and convenience with my coffee. I return to my regular haunts mainly because of these aspects.

3. Any thoughts of the ubiquitous canned coffee. Have you seen the Georgia Wa mattcha flavored coffee?

I think there is a statistic somewhere that says there is a vending machine in Japan for every 20-odd people. I do drink canned coffee every once in a while when an interesting new one comes out. The hot cans in winter-time come in handy. One in each hand whilst walking to the train station keeps you warm.

4. What do you think about old-style coffee shops like Renoir?

Yes I don’t frequent the old style “kissatens” at all. The ones I have been to are dark and gloomy and full of old people drinking watered down coffee through coffee stained teeth and chain smoking in constant haze of smoke. You get an ashtray and a glass of water as soon as you sit down. I read that there used to be around 160,000 kissatens in post WW2 Japan. Now there are less than 70,000 left, fading away in favour of the Starbucks, Excelsior Café and new-look Doutor Cafes. The one I went to in Nerima just outside central Tokyo looked like the furniture, décor, the staff and the menu prices had not changed in 50 years.

5. Your favorite coffee shops in Tokyo? Any coffee shops with really good food? What makes them special? 

It is hard to find a café in Tokyo that has all my prerequisites. Ultra cool, good service, fun staff, outdoor seating, great coffee and chilled music. But there are a few gems around that are worthy of a mention. (All coffee photos by Mal Simpson.)

 

Nozy – Sangenjaya (Setagaya-ku, Sangenjaya 2-29-7, http://www.nozycoffee.jp) – Home roasted, single origin, yes very old school idea considering the fad these days. Popular with cyclists, slightly off the beaten track though. They roast the beans in a small room right next to the coffee machine. You can imagine the beans hardly have time to cool before they are ground up and made into your coffee order. Talk about fresh! Owner Masataka Nojo started out in Shonan I heard back in his University days. Grab a brew take away and sit across the road in Setagaya Park. The coffee flavour will linger on in your mouth for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Streamer – Harajuku (Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 3-28-19, http://streamercoffee.com) – The owner Hiroshi Sawada seemingly has managed to make baristas look like rock stars. He has done collaborations with Apple, New Balance, Armarni, Casio, Patagonia and his latest gig is Barista Sports wear. Some of the merchandising he does in store is pretty cool too.

 

Lattest – Omotesando (Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 3-5-2m http://lattest.jp) Produced by Sawada of Streamer, inside looks like a warehouse art gallery. Staff are passionate about coffee and very friendly. As my friend quickly noticed, the girls’ uniform seems to be cut off jeans and sneaker. He often stays for several coffees of an afternoon.

 

Globe – Ikejiri (Setagaya-ku, Ikejiri 2-7-8, http://www.globe-antiques.com/cafe/) I love hanging out at this place on a rainy afternoon. Set in the corner of a huge antique shop in an equally impressive multi-storied building. You can basically buy the chair you are sitting on and add it to your bill. Fun selection of cakes under the counter and coffee served in a French-style bowl.

 

Gazebo – Daikanyama (Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Nishi 1-33-15, http://www.gazebo.jp) One of the only places that you can sit in the sun and people watch whilst sipping coffee on the patio. They do a very reasonable light lunch set weekdays. Gazebo was one of the first places I found in Tokyo that had a discount when you “checked-in” to Gazebo using facebook.

 

Breadworks – Tennozu Isle (Shinagawa-ku, Higashi-Shinagawa 2-1-6, http://www.tyharborbrewing.co.jp/en/breadworks/about/story-of-breadworks/) – By the same guys who do Cicada and TY Harbour brewery etc. Built in an old factory warehouse and with a great deck for seating out along the waters edge. It hardly feels like you’re in Tokyo. I can never decide if I want to have their coffee and fresh made bread/pastries or go next door for a beer breakfast at TY Harbour. Worth a trip out there for brunch.

 

Nakameguro Lounge – Nakameguro (Meguro-ku, Kami-Meguro 3-6-18, http://nakameguro-lounge.net) – Ultra cool themed lounge. Always playing cool deep house or lounge and the odd acid jazz or sultry jazz track. Great coffee, excellent service and very reasonable prices for coffee and food.

 

Bear Pond – Shimokitazawa (Setagaya-ku, Kitazawa 2-36-12, http://www.bear-pond.com) – I think I would incur a wrath of complaints if I didn’t mention Bear Pond. Although my experience there was not as pleasant as others. I found the hand written signs around warning you not to take photos a little off-putting and the staff were far to overly “secretive” about their beans and roasting. The place is no bigger than a six mat tatami room and too far out of the way for me to make regular trips out there. In saying that, it is insanely popular and it was a great coffee. You should try the Ristretto. The owner is obviously totally into the coffee but I still rate NOZY Café as the best so far.

More on Mal:

After Graphic Design College thinking I could change the world, I quickly lost my passion for design and the inbred big corporate industry advertising and wound up helping out in my friends sushi bar. After wondering around the Japanese resto scene on the Gold Coast for a few years I eventually found some direction by studying Cajun Cooking at New Orleans Café (1996) in Sydney under my Chef mentor Chef Shea of Paul Prudhomme and Emeril’s kitchens fame. Played around in fine dining in Sydney for a while at Coast and Manta (1998) before moving to Tokyo. Opened a small restaurant in Ebisu with Chef David Miney of Harvey Nichols/London (1999-2001) After another brief stint in Sydney (2001-2002) re-opening a revamped New Orleans Café. Moved back to Tokyo and started up as Maitre’d at the newly opened Legato from Global Dining (2003-2006). Moved to London (2006-2010) and opened 4 Japanese restaurants, mainly for the Bincho Yakitori group with UK Restaurateurs David Miney, Dominic Ford and Ronnie Truss. (2011) Now at TAC as part of the Management team, started the new restaurant Decanter and helped developed the Vegas-style Steak House concept.

Hobbies: Abseiling, Rock climbing, Cycling, Hiking, Tennis. I still do some activities with the local Boy Scouts of America as a Venturer Leader. Travel of course, as well as coffee and drinking wine… they go hand in hand really…