Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi ★★★★☆ #BookReview #BookBlog

Primary Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism, Time Travel
Published: 6 Dec 2015 (first published)
Page count: 227 (print length)
My Format: eBook via Overdrive/Libby
Cover: Quaint
Pacing: Slow
Ending: Great  
Do I Recommend: Yes
Commission Link (U.S.): Buy Before the Coffee Gets Cold

My rating: ★★★★

If you could go back, who would you want to meet?

In a small back alley of Tokyo, there is a café that has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. Local legend says that this shop offers something else besides coffee—the chance to travel back in time.

Over the course of one summer, four customers visit the café in the hopes of making that journey. But time travel isn’t so simple, and there are rules that must be followed. Most important, the trip can last only as long as it takes for the coffee to get cold.

My Thoughts
Not too long ago this book was all over book blogs and Instagram. Since I have read some wonderful Japanese novels (translated to English) in the past, I knew I had to read this. I mean, coffee and time travel… it has to be good, right? Here are my pros and cons for Before the Coffee Gets Cold:


  1. This book is basically told in four sections about four different people who want to go back in time. All of the stories are connected in some way or other. The first two stories were good, the third one was really good, and the last one was exceptional.
  2. This was an interesting and unpretentious observation of human beings – their emotions, their (perceived) failures, their relationships, their losses, their regrets. I was captivated.
  3. I loved that this story was a bit claustrophobic. Since time travel is conceivably infinite, combining that with a very controlled space (a tiny back alley café) to tell the story was an effective contrast.
  4. This story was unhurried, and I appreciated the calmness of it.
  5. There is a lot of feeling here as well. The last story was particularly emotional.
  6. Ultimately, I think this book is about the value of relationships, seizing the moment, and not focusing on regret.


  1. The book was a little repetitive, although not to the extent that it impacted my enjoyment of the story.
  2. The prose was so meticulous. It felt like every movement of every character was described in intricate detail. It was almost like reading stage directions in a script. I’m not sure if this is just how this author writes, or if something was lost or altered in the Japanese to English translation, but it was distracting and did impact my overall experience with the novel.

This book is probably not everyone’s cup of tea (or cup of coffee!) and that is okay. It is very slow-paced, it discusses painful experiences, and the writing style is a little hard to read. But overall I think it is a gem. I really liked it and I think it is worth reading just to get to the last two stories.   

Thank you NetGalley and Capstone Editions for an ebook, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.

If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy Before the Coffee Gets Cold. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Click here for a description of my rating scale.

(image from Goodreads)

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