I visit Coffee Wrights on a bright, spring day, as sunlight filters in through large, open windows. Yuki Mune, roaster and co-owner of the Sangenjaya coffee shop, sits by a cute three-kilogram Fuji Royal sifting through coffee beans, as her coworkers work quietly near the counter.
“I was a hairstylist before I started in coffee but that was a long time ago,” she says. “I actually started in coffee some 15 years ago.”
Like many others at that time, she began her career working at Starbucks, but she didn’t start roasting until she moved to Mojo Coffee. After gaining some experience there, she found an opportunity to work with Blue Bottle Japan, where she spent several years before opening Coffee Wrights with a friend.
Comparatively, Coffee Wrights feels like a drastic change of pace and style—it’s quiet, slow, and very easygoing—but Mune says that’s the point.
“I really enjoyed working at Blue Bottle, but after a time I began to miss interacting with customers,” she says. “I wanted to talk about the coffee I roasted with the people who bought it, firsthand. That’s when I first started thinking about opening a small place somewhere.”
Mune says she originally wanted to open a shop in east Tokyo, but when her search came up empty she had to widen her net. That brought her to Sangenjaya and to an abandoned hair salon on a quiet corner she happened to fall in love with. The neighborhood is a comfortable mix of maze-like streets and local shopping arcades next to rowdy alleyways of eateries and bars.
During the day, the area is slow and sleepy, and Coffee Wrights seems a snug fit for that rhythm of life. The shop is simply designed, with a quiet DIY-influenced interior and zero pretension. There’s coffee beans, cakes, and upstairs some tables and chairs where you can enjoy them. Everything is centered on the simple idea of making and sharing coffee, an idea reflected in the name of the shop.
“A friend came up with the name,” Mune admits. “We thought about it a lot but couldn’t think of anything, and one day my friend just threw Coffee Wrights out there as a suggestion. It’s an old word that means maker, or creator, and it just felt like a good fit. We liked it.”
Mune now works with an old Fuji Royal. She says it’s around 29 years old and a bit beaten up, but they couldn’t fit anything much larger in the space they have to work with. She says she’s gone old-fashioned with the roasting approach, using notepads and pens instead of an attached computer. It’s part and parcel of starting out small, but it also seems to be part of the fun, too.
She says starting out on your own is a balancing act. You lose access to high-tech roasters, some green bean buying connections, certain coffees, and a certain amount of stability, but you get a chance to express yourself, do your own thing, and make more personal connections instead.
“I just like working with coffee: the brewing, the roasting, the customer interactions,” she explains. “And I like that we connect with people through those things. Yeah, of course, we would have loved a bigger location, but we had a budget to consider, too, so we thought we’d just start small and see how it goes.”
And so far reception has been good. There’s plenty of interesting coffee to roast, and plenty of locals interested in trying something new. It’s an easygoing, unassuming start, but it’s a step in the right direction, and a chance to build a little slice of coffee culture into a corner of the Sangenjaya neighborhood.
Hengtee Lim is a Sprudge staff writer based in Tokyo. Read more Hengtee Lim on Sprudge.