Interview: Masahiro Onishi
Anyone who knows Melbourne coffee Don, Salvatore Malatesta, understands that the guy gets around. The fact that Makers missed him by a day at Switch Coffee in Meguro, Tokyo? Not as strange as it sounds.
He dropped by for the same reason anyone with an interest in coffee does when passing through the Japanese capital – to experience the brew pulled by barista Masahiro Onishi, a dedicated lover of the bean and a one-time South Melbourne local.
Masahiro: “Some of the best coffee is in South Melbourne – I loved Deadman Espresso and St Ali."
His testing ground was noteworthy: landing in Melbourne a few years back, the Japanese-native’s keen coffee interest and light touch at the machine earned him the barista job at highly regarded The Premises cafe in Kensington.
It was from this space that was drawn much of the inspiration and drive that’s since been realised in his first solo venture, Switch, the name so chosen for its ability to cross linguistic boundaries (it means the same in both Japanese and English). Certainly nine months in and his identification of a yet-to-be serviced niche in the local hospitality market – Japan isn’t known for its coffee – is bearing fruit.
There’s the kudos donated by visits from top coffee brass like Malatesta, of course, but more than that there is the enthusiasm local regulars are exhibiting for his unique approach: everything in this space works cohesively together, from the elegant and inviting aesthetic to the focus on global beans and the café’s fashionably practical uniform – those Mackey aprons commonly stocked and worn in (you guessed it) Premises.
Makers finishes up the last of a longed for latte and snaps a few extra shots before hitting the streets. Masahiro walks us to the door and it’s the shoes that catch our eye – the beautiful oiled leather boot from French brand Paraboot that speaks as much about the café and the man as the coffee: simple, smart, casual and in excellent taste.
Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan 1530063
Story & images by: Samantha Hogan