Book Reviews

Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi and translated by Geoffrey Trousselot

I had been hearing whispers about this book, but when Mike recommended it to me, I knew I had to read it. With a unique magical world building concept, Before the Coffee Gets Cold is whimsical and thoughtful. Keep reading my full thoughts in this book review.


In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the café’s time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer’s, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the café, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . .


From the beginning, I loved the concept. Time travel is one of those tricky subjects where you are never sure how it’s going to feasibly work. But Before the Coffee Gets Cold takes this premise and makes it not only ordered, but also unique. It distills the intentions and hopes behind time travel down to a series of moments. Just until the coffee cools. And knows that whatever you do, you cannot change the present. Those momentary regrets, the conversations we wish we would have had.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is based on the customers, the people, who come in. At the beginning of the sections, it can take a while to get to know the characters, to see what drives them. But there were none that lost me. Kawaguchi does a fabulous job of displaying these characters motivations. The decisions in their lives that lead them to want to go back in time. It feels cozy and character grounded. In their lives there’s always something universal. In their pains, their fears, and their regrets.

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We find out that in Before the Coffee Gets Cold, the present doesn’t change, but who we are does. Even if we can’t change anything, it can give us a sense of peace, an added motivation, or just a moment we never had before. Find Before the Coffee Gets Cold on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Indiebound,, & The Book Depository.


What’s your favorite subtle fantasy?

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