Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Setting: Japan
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Published on December 6, 2015
Format: eBook Source: Library

What would you change if you could travel back in time?

Down a small alleyway in the heart of Tokyo, there’s an underground café that’s been serving carefully brewed coffee for over a hundred years. Local legend says that this shop offers its customers something else besides coffee—the chance to travel back in time.
The rules, however, are far from simple: you must sit in one particular seat, and you can’t venture outside the café, nor can you change the present. And, most important, you only have the time it takes to drink a hot cup of coffee—or risk getting stuck forever.
Over the course of one summer, four customers visit the café in the hopes of traveling to another time: a heartbroken lover looking for closure, a nurse with a mysterious letter from her husband, a waitress hoping to say one last goodbye and a mother whose child she may never get the chance to know.
Heartwarming, wistful and delightfully quirky, Before the Coffee Gets Cold explores the intersecting lives of four women who come together in one extraordinary café, where the service may not be quick, but the opportunities are endless.

I didn’t know quite what to expect from this book. I’m generally up for reading anything described as “quirky” and this is definitely that.

In an out of the way corner of Tokyo there is a cafe that always stays cool. You can travel in time if you want to follow all the rules. Most people don’t. You can only travel from one seat — and you have to wait until the ghost who is sitting there gets up to go to the bathroom once a day. You can’t move from that seat when you are in the past. Nothing you do in the past will affect the present. And you can only stay in the past until your coffee gets cold. Not many people care to go through all that just to visit this nondescript cafe in the past.

But for the people who do take the time to learn the rules, the trip can be life changing.

This book is both sad and uplifting at the same time. Each traveler is looking to reconnect with someone who they have lost. Some have died. Others are estranged. While the present circumstances can’t be changed, each person’s soul is touched in ways that affect their lives.

This is a quiet book as you’d expect from a book that takes place in a cafe with only a few customers. It is a book to curl up with in a cozy corner on a cloudy day. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that don’t appreciate this aspect. They seemed to be looking for more action in their time travel book. It is important to keep in mind that this is a Japanese book. Familial duty, staying reserved in the face of emotional turmoil, and keeping your feelings to yourself and not sharing them easily with outsiders are considered the norm in this story. Accept those things going into this book and it will likely charm you.