Today the Japanese brand Hario is well known for its coffee making equipment, however this company started life in old Tokyo retailing and then making industrial glass products. With a strong set of values, their past continues to shape their products. We following their journey from 1921 to the present day.
From 1920s Tokyo
The Hario V60 coffee range has become so popular that you could easily be forgiven for thinking that Hario has always been making coffee-making equipment. Their products have been regular design award winners and the beehive shape that determines the profile of their drippers, pouring kettles and coffee servers has become instantly recognisable to coffee connoisseurs across the globe.
While Japan is now the third largest importer of coffee in the world, coffee was scarcely on the horizon when Hiromu Shibata began to produce and sell industrial glass products from a workshop in the heart of imperial Japan’s capital in 1921. Trading in the name of its founder for the following two decades, the business slowly evolved before reaching a pivotal point in 1940 when the company invested in a furnace to start researching glass melting processes at a new facility in the Ueno Hanazonocho district of central Tokyo.
The 1940s were, of course, a turbulent time for Japan and the war profoundly shaped life in Tokyo city. And yet by 1947 the business had successfully developed a range of specialist glass products designed for physical and chemical laboratory experiments: a product line that continues to the present day.
The King of Glass
In 1949 the business’ research efforts paid off with the development of production techniques that resulted in a specialist, hardened glass. Stronger and more resistant to high temperatures and sudden cooling, the glass had immediate application for their existing product lines. The glass was named ‘Hario’, which translates directly into english as ‘The King of Glass’.
Hario: A specialist manufacturer
The skills of their craftsmen, cutting-edge production facilities and a unique product allowed Hario to diversify into a variety of new areas, often playing a critical part in the complex webs that commonly make up Japanese supply chains. Their specialisms have seen them develop lenses and headlight covers for automobiles, valves for cathode ray tubes and baby’s glass bottles. Over the second half of the twentieth century, the various facets of the business have continued to develop new production methods and find or develop new niches for both consumers and industry.
Despite the growing scope and scale of their activities, Hario’s emphasis on craft has remained at the forefront of Hario’s design and production philosophies. This has lead to some unusual and unique products and collaborations. In 2003 Hario crafted a glass violin and developed the world’s first glass cone speaker set.
Hario for the home
In Japan, Hario is best known for their range of homewares. Using their specialist glass making knowledge, the company developed a consumer-focused brand and progressively developed a homewares range that extends from crock pots, tableware, glassware, sake decanters, tea pots, rice cookers and pet bowls – all incorporating Hario’s specialist glassmaking. The glass lid on the ceramic rice cooker is a good example.
The Third Wave: Hario makes coffee making equipment
Hario’s foray into coffee-making equipment coincided with significant shifts in Japan’s coffee culture. Astute Japanese consumers were increasingly concerned with the quality and providence of their coffee. Hario weren’t the first to make drippers, pouring kettles, filters or siphons, but they became – and continue to be – some of the best. The introduction of the V60 coffee range in 2002 hit a sweet spot in the market and the range was well received.
The timing also interfaced with global trends. Hario’s progression from industrial products to homewares to coffee equipment synced with an increase in consumer awareness of speciality coffee and the desire to drink coffee for its flavour. The success of the range also lead to the next phase in Hario’s journey as it took the decision to progress into a fully-fledged homewares brand and not be restricted solely to products made from glass.
Hario look to the future
Innovation and developing new markets remain at the core of Hario’s philosophy. When we visited their Tokyo HQ in October 2012, they were eager to show us new products and discuss ideas that challenged existing notions of both coffee-equipment and homewares. We’re really pleased to be now selling a variety of these products. With their serious attention to detail, dedication to pioneering new ideas, and concepts and production expertise we are looking forward to witnessing the next chapter of Hario’s story.