As high-quality specialty coffee spreads across Japan, the city center is becoming more and more competitive. As a result, we’re seeing more specialty coffee shops in Tokyo opening in local neighborhoods, where instead of fighting for a spot among the heavy hitters, the convenience stores, and the vending machines, coffee shop owners can instead gradually make themselves a part of the local community.
It was in a community just like this, near Mizue station in the Edogawa area, that I found Deakin St Coffee Stand.
Owned and operated by Simon James French and Chie Kamiya, Deakin St Coffee Stand is a relaxed space for coffee and chilling out, built into the first floor of the building the couple calls home. It’s an easygoing, friendly space with a small counter and a comfortable couch, and a bench outside for when the weather is nice.
“When we started here, a designer told us that Deakin St was our ‘life’ work, and that our day jobs were our ‘rice’ work, in that it puts rice on the table,” says French. “And he was right; Deakin St is our passion project.”
French says he’d been thinking of starting a coffee shop for a while, though initially he envisioned saving money and starting a shop in Kyoto; having only arrived in Tokyo last October in 2017, French was expecting a coffee shop to be a long-term goal and something later down the line. However, when looking for a place to live, he and Kamiya discovered the shop space in Edogawa, and found that with a little help from Allpress—where he splits his time roasting when not at Deakin St—they could start up much sooner than expected, and so they did.
Naturally then, the coffee selection comes courtesy of the Allpress roastery in Kiba, in the form of Americanos, lattes, hand drip, and cold brew, though French says he’d like to share coffee from Australian roasters in the future, also. Together with the coffee, Deakin St offers a selection of cakes from Kathy’s Kitchen, based in Kyoto and available only at Deakin St.
The name Deakin St, French says, is a nod to the place he and Kamiya called home for a year and a half in Australia.
“When we were living in Australia, we lived at 1 Deakin Street, which was our home and was really special; we have really good memories. We lived with an older professor; super friendly and loud and cool and very Aussie, and we had a really great relationship for the year and a half we spent together. When we started talking about our goal of one day opening a cafe, Deakin St felt right.”
“We wanted to create that Deakin St experience for Japan,” adds Kamiya.
The style then is like the area; mellow and relaxed. French handles the coffee, and Kamiya handles the counter, but both are always happy to talk and hang out with the locals passing by, many of whom have already made the place their regular go-to coffee shop.
And when you visit Deakin St, you get a real sense for why specialty coffee shops make so much sense in residential areas, and in the corners of local communities: it’s an experience that acts as a point of connection, bringing a moment of relaxation or easy conversation to everyday life. It’s the kind of environment and feel in which a coffee can be savored without a rush.
Hengtee Lim (@Hent03) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Tokyo. Read more Hengtee Lim on Sprudge.