We sat down with our head of quality control for a quick interview to learn more about his history with coffee and Market Lane Coffee, and his favourite parts of the job.
2020 marks ten years since the amazing Toshi Ishiwata began working with us at Market Lane (and our sister company Melbourne Coffee Merchants). Toshi started off as a barista and roaster before becoming our head roaster for many years. He is now our head of quality control, as well as our Brazil coffee buyer, and he occasionally runs roasting classes for customers (which are offered in both Japanese language and English). We deeply admire and appreciate Toshi’s ever-expanding knowledge, expertise and passion for coffee, and we are so grateful to have him on the Market Lane team.
Market Lane Coffee: How long have you worked in the Melbourne coffee industry, and what were you doing before that?
Toshi Ishiwata: I’ve been working in the Melbourne coffee industry for 15 years. Before that I worked as a waiter in Japan, and also as an undertaker in a funeral business. I moved to Christchurch and worked as a dishwasher there, and did the same when I moved to Melbourne after that.
How did you get into roasting?
I was a barista before becoming a roaster. I saw more possibilities in roasting, and became more interested in it.
How has Market Lane, and your job, changed over the years?
When I started working at Market Lane, there was only one shop – in Prahran – and now there are seven locations, including the roastery in Brunswick! I’ve had the great opportunity to see how the company has grown and changed, and also learned a lot in this time, which is encouraging and motivating.
What are some highlights of your time at Market Lane so far?
Getting good feedback from customers and clients, tasting amazing coffee from the great producers we work with, and going on trips to origin!
You have a following in the Japanese coffee community – do you keep up your coffee connections in Japan?
Japanese people are the highest quality-coffee buyers in the world. They don’t compromise when it comes to paying high prices for good quality, which is great. This encourages producers. I am Japanese, so I have amazing friends there. I hope to keep connecting with the Japanese coffee industry.
Can you tell us about the Rosettas For Relief event you ran after the tsunami in Japan?
The event was a donation latte art competition for the Tohoku earthquake, which happened on 11th March 2011. The idea was actually Fleur’s [Market Lane’s co-owner]. Over 30 people from cafes all over Melbourne competed. That event, along with another one we did that week, raised almost $7000 for people in Japan impacted by the earthquake and tsunami.
You met your wife Miyuki through Market Lane. How did that happen?
Miyuki was initially a customer at Market Lane, and later worked at the company, too.
What's your favourite thing about working in coffee?
Having the opportunity to meet amazing people through work, and all the delicious coffees, of course. Coffee is seasonal, so every year the crop qualities are different, even from the same farm. This means I’m always learning and I never get bored.
How do you drink your coffee?
I like most brew methods if the coffee and recipe are both good. But most of the time I brew pour over.
What are you looking forward to regarding coffee and Market Lane in the future?
I’m looking forward to going on origin trips again, when it’s safe to do so, and meeting more amazing people. I also want to make people happy when they drink tasty coffee.