A guide to the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series

With four books from the internationally bestselling series Before the Coffee Gets Cold on the shelves, and a fifth due this year, here’s everything you need to know about Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s time travelling books, from the order to read them in, to what the latest instalment is about. 

Selling over one million copies worldwide, Before the Coffee Gets Cold was originally an award-winning play written by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, adapted into a series of best-selling, internationally translated novels. Time travel is at the heart of this series, set in a peculiar bijou back-street Tokyo cafe, where a cup of coffee offers more than just a caffeine buzz, and the opportunity to go back in time is open to anyone who can follow the strange set of rules. After the first book’s huge success, he went on to write more in the series, with the latest, Before We Say Goodbye, released in September 2023 and the next, Before We Forget Kindness, out in September 2024.

What are the Before the Coffee Gets Cold books about?

The idea behind the story is a beautifully simple premise; a gateway to time travel in an unassuming cafe. But there are as many curious and magical details to the time travel itself as there are characters to meet. The customers of cafe Funiculi Funicula may travel back in time, to any time they like, for any reason they may have. However, they must return before their cup of coffee is cold. And there are a few more caveats to keep in mind too; you can only time travel when sitting in a particular seat within the cafe, and you must not move from that seat when you do travel to the past. Oh, and whatever is said and done when you do go back, will never change the future.

Should you read the books in order?

Although we meet many new characters and hear their unique stories in each book, we get to know the cafe owners and their friends and family over the course of the series, with their own secrets and mysteries uncovered along the way. The premise and rules of Cafe Funiculi Funicula’s time-travel are set out in the first book, and these rules play a huge role in why the characters time-travel and what happens when they do. Therefore, while the books can be read as standalone novels, they are best enjoyed in sequence. If you don’t know where to start, the books are listed below. 

What is the next book in the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series?

Before We Forget Kindness

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Book cover for Before We Forget Kindness

We can't reveal much about the next book in the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series, except that it's out on the 19th September 2024 and available to pre-order now. 

What is the latest book in the Before the Coffee Gets Cold series?

Before We Say Goodbye

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Book cover for Before We Say Goodbye

This is the fourth and latest book with Toshikazu Kawaguchi inviting us back once more to Cafe Funiculi Funicula to meet four new visitors with four intriguing time-travelling stories, including a man who lived without regret until his wife was brain damaged, realising he regretted never telling her how she made him feel, and a woman who couldn’t answer a proposal. What will they do with their time? Where will they time-travel to? And can they finish what they set out to do in the time it takes for their coffee to get cold?

The Before the Coffee Gets Cold books in order:

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Book cover for Before the Coffee Gets Cold

In an unassuming cafe, there is an urban legend which the strong-willed yet heartbroken Fumiko wants to uncover. Just a week before, in the very same cafe, her boyfriend broke up with her. What if she could return to that moment and handle the conversation differently? She fervently and doggedly sets out to discover how to travel back, hounding Kazu who serves the coffee to share the many rules and idiosyncrasies that takes you back to the past. Fumiko takes us on her own journey, and along the way we meet the other proprietors of the cafe, who share three more heartbreaking yet life-affirming journeys they take to relive the past.

Tales from the Cafe

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Book cover for Tales from the Cafe

We return to the cafe, this time feeling like a regular – getting to know the quirks and décor a little better, and more interestingly the people who spend their days there, including a surprising revelation about the ghost who inhabits that chair. But we meet new characters too, including a heart-wrenching story of love and gratitude of a man who goes back to thank and pay back his best friend who died two decades ago, and an old man who never gave his wife a gift. Regrets, wrong assumptions and missed opportunities hang heavy in the air in this mysterious old cafe, but in true Funiculi Funicula fashion, love and hope always unfold as the travellers return to the present.

Before Your Memory Fades

Book cover for Before Your Memory Fades

Leaving Tokyo behind, we take a trip with our old friends to the sister cafe of Funiculi Funicula, where, on the hillside of Mount Hakodate in northern Japan, Cafe Donna Donna with its wistful views also offers customers the chance to quest through time. More of the recognisable cafe owners' stories are revealed, and we also meet wonderful new characters, including the mother and daughter, who in their own independent loneliness travel through time to save each other. Tears may flow, as our time travellers once again find new vantage points on old beliefs to uncover life-affirming discoveries.