In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café that 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.
Before the coffee gets cold is the story of a café in Tokyo that has one special chair that allows people to time travel. The process is a bit of a mystery, but one that has existed for over one hundred years. Customers come into this magical café with hopes to travel to the past as well as the future.
This time traveling process comes with several rules. First, one can only time travel while inside the cafe. The time travel process does not alter the present circumstances and the duration of the time travel must last for as long as the coffee remains warm.
As soon as a customer sits in the special chair, they are poured a mug of freshly brewed coffee. The customer has the choice to travel either to the past or the future, but they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold or they will turn into a ghost.
This book was very different from what I expected going in. I loved how Kawaguchi interwove several stories into one beautiful tale of love, regret, and hope. There are some nostalgic and some very sad parts in this book, but I loved the symbolism in the story. The idea that if you are “stuck” too long in the past or the future will turn you into a ghost is a great message to the importance of visiting the past and thinking about the future for a short time, but how our lives must be lived in the present.
Ultimately, Kawaguchi asks the reader “At the end of the day, whether one returns to the past or travels to the future, the present does not change. So it raises the question: ‘just what is the purpose of that chair?'”
I invite you to grab a cup of your favorite warm beverage and find out the answer for yourself.
Format: Paperback, 213 pages. Original Title: コーヒーが冷めないうちにPublished: September 19th, 2019 by Picador (first published December 6th 2015)
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fiction, magical realism