A Japan-based welfare workshop named Ryoke Green Gables has received a big reaction following a decision to employ visually impaired workers to roast coffee beans.
The idea was conceived by Koji Katogi, the president of the nonprofit organization, Minori, which operates the workshop. Katogi was inspired by his time as a teacher at a prefectural special needs school for the visually impaired. He was aware of challenges visually impaired workers face in the job market and wanted to create opportunities. It’s likely thanks to his experience the genius idea of roasting coffee beans came to mind.
Using an open flame, workers can discern the readiness based upon time and sound. Timing determines the flavor and a one-second difference can impact taste positively or negatively. After several trial runs, taste tests resulted in rave reviews with lucky participants remarking, "This is exactly what it tastes like," and "It tastes just like Guatemala," while others suggested that the beans "should be roasted a little more."
Through these exchanges, they continued to make improvements, and the beans were even praised as "tastier than those of imported grocery chains."
They decided to name their new coffee bean product Bokura wa Mimi de Baisen o suru, which means “We roast coffee by ear.” Last December, during the holiday season, sales of the special roast reached around 400,000 yen (about $3,260), accounting for 60% to 70% of the facility’s total revenue.
Kento Ikuta, the coffee bean roasting leader, was previously unable to pursue his desired career. Ryoke Green Gables gave him the opportunity to put his skills to great use.
"At first I wasn't sure if I could do it. Now, I am happy because we get a lot of orders. I want to continue roasting so that people will say, 'This is delicious,'" he beamed.