Making Friends and Memories one Pour-over Cup of Coffee at a time.
Meet Rie and CharRie's Cafe
Rie Sawada’s passion for coffee and outdoor adventure led her halfway across the world from her home in Japan to a 4-month, 3,400 mile solo-bike packing trip across Europe. We sat down with her to learn more about her epic journey making friends and memories one pour-over cup of coffee at a time.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Japan until I was 20 years old, since then I’ve lived all over the world. I wanted to see the world for myself, go surfing, and ride bikes in different places. I have traveled to 26 countries, and surfed in 6 countries. My favorite things are traveling, road tripping, surfing, camping, cycling, cooking, photography, coffee, and sharing my experiences with others. Those passions have brought me to so many opportunities to see different worlds and connect with people.
How did your adventures bring you to Portland, Oregon?
My biggest solo adventure trip was crossing Europe from Berlin to Portugal by myself with my mobile bicycle cafe “CharRie’s Cafe” in 2013. After the European coffee bike trip, I had the opportunity to move to Portland to establish SimWorks USA, a Japanese-based bicycle component and accessories company with US distribution located in Portland, OR.
You rode your bike all over Europe serving pour over coffee off of the back of it. What inspired you to do this?
I like Coffee, Bicycle and Surfing. I found myself at a point where I had the freedom and opportunity to take time and travel. I’m always up for doing unusual, fun things by bicycle and I wanted to share my taste of coffee and adventure experiences with others. I thought bicycle touring was the best way to see the world more than any other transportation. So, my plan was to serve pour over coffee off of my bicycle, go on a touring adventure with my coffee bike at the same time, catch some waves along the way, and share my story with coffee in real time. I also wanted to promote women’s cycling culture and inspire people through the power of bicycles and the possibilities of alternative transportation. Because I can do it, anyone can do it.
Where did your travels take you?
It was somewhat of a crash course for me because I really had not ridden touring style bikes or even bikes with gears. Once I was able to get started, staying out on my tour became easier in time as I got stronger, more comfortable with my bike and my routine and I just wanted to see more amazing places and meet more interesting people.
I was originally planning to ride for 3 months, 4,000 km trip but ended up riding for 4 months, 5,500 km with lots of fun detours from Berlin, Switzerland, France, Andra, Spain to Portugal. I rode my fully loaded bicycle with coffee gears and table and crossed a lot of big passes through the Alps and Pyrenees. I got lost a lot and stayed at a hotel less than 10 times, mostly camping on the way. I got lucky, only a few rainy rides and mostly sunny days in beautiful European summer time that I wasn’t expecting.
You were serving pour over coffee to people in different countries along the way. What was that experience like?
I found serving pour over coffee to be a great icebreaker and helped in breaking down communication barriers. Pour over is a way of making coffee that seems to transmit love and a reflection of the person who is doing it. Most people who love coffee seem to innately understand this, so it gave us something that we understood universally. I think showing people that I cared about coffee and cycling and traveling expressed a kind of humanity that a lot of people identify with. There were constant examples of interactions that I had with new people where I would find myself calling upon those people either to help me if I needed it, or to give me guidance and fresh perspectives for continuing my adventure.
"Pour over is a way of making coffee that seems to transmit love and a reflection of the person who is doing it. Most people who love coffee seem to innately understand this, so it gave us something that we understood universally."
Why is pour over your favorite way of brewing coffee?
The process is very calming and intentional and feels almost meditative.
Pour over makes the coffee mellow, full-bodied, easy to drink with a loving taste. There are a lot of nuances to it. I like that you can make small adjustments that have very noticeable impacts on taste and experience.
I also appreciate how portable and relatively easy it is to use. The equipment required is easy to transport, durable and a reflection of my style.
What have been some of your favorite moments serving pour over?
My favorite moments serving coffee are when I’m able to disarm people who otherwise don’t drink coffee or have never had pour over style coffee. You can see in their faces when they have it how much they enjoy it. It feels like a little bit of a win if I can convert someone to drinking pour over style coffee. During the pour over process, I try to tease out the bloom effect so the person watching can see the living coffee experience. The bloom serves as another lens through which people can see the effort and love I put into the process. People see that I care and it makes them care too.