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Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

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Before The Coffee Gets Cold is a novel by bestselling Japanese author and playwright Toshikazu Kawaguchi.

It’s the first book in the series and was published in 2019. Before the Coffee Gets Cold is followed by Tales From The Cafe, Before Your Memory Fades and Before We Say Goodbye.

Before The Coffee Gets Cold originally began as a play, before being adapted into a novel in 2015. The novel was then translated into English by Geoffrey Trousselot

Before The Coffee Gets Cold was an international bestseller with more than one million copies sold.

Before The Coffee Gets Cold: Plot

The novel takes place in a small Tokyo alley where a centuries-old café is renowned for serving carefully brewed coffee. However, that’s not all the coffee shop offers. For over one hundred years it’s rumoured to grant customers the ability to travel back in time.

During a single summer, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the cafe’s time-travelling offer. Each story is different with one wanting to confront the man who left them while another wants to receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by Alzheimer’s. One wants to see their sister one last time, and another wants meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.

Yet, time travel here comes with strict rules. The most crucial rule is you must finish your coffee before it gets cold, or you risk getting trapped in the past forever, making each visit to the past a race against time.

Before The Coffee Gets Cold: My Opinion

I loved the premise of this story and in some ways it does deliver. It offers a unique take on time travel and rather than feeling like a science fiction novel, the emphasis was placed very much on the characters and their emotions.

I liked how there were four separate parts to the story as each customer made their own trip back to the past. Each short story was interlinked and the situations were all varied.

However the writing style is simplistic and often feels quite repetitive. The constant descriptions of the outfits of the characters and the decor of the cafe reminded me that this novel started off as a play. The constant repetition of the rules also became quite tiresome.

I preferred one story over the other three and found the writer’s portrayal of women a bit frustrating. I don’t want to include any spoilers but I was left feeling a little uncomfortable by some of the female characters’ decisions.

Despite these misgivings I did feel drawn into the story and was intrigued to see where each journey would end. I found it thought provoking and it made me wonder what I would do if I had the chance to go back in time.

There’s another three books in the story and I’d be interested to read the second book to see if my issues with the first are resolved.


While it does have it flaws, I found Before The Coffee Gets Cold to be an intriguing take on time travel and I’d be interested in reading the second book in the series.


How many pages does Before The Coffee Gets Cold have?

Before The Coffee Gets Cold has 227 pages.

When was Before The Coffee Gets Cold released?

Before The Coffee Gets Cold was published on 19th September 2019.

What should I read after Before The Coffee Gets Cold?

If you enjoyed this book, I’d recommend reading the other books in the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series. If you’ve finished the series and are looking for books with a similar feel, I would suggest reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Sea of Tranquility by Emily St John Mandel.

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