On the sixth floor of the Shinjuku NEWoMan shopping complex is an outdoor terrace. It feels perfect for summer: food and drink stalls, outdoor yoga, people watching, interesting music. And in the middle of it all, a very unusual coffee counter called Minedrip Coffee.
Minedrip Coffee is immediately intriguing: its long wood bar hosts a self-brew pour-over bar. Though it is staffed, the personnel are there to help you choose a coffee and talk you through the brewing process. And at the end of it you get one cup of coffee, brewed all by yourself. And then you pay what you wish.
Taku Kodaira of Mikro Entertainment—the group behind the operation—says the coffee shop was inspired by his exploration of the local coffee scene. He realized each person has unique preferences, and he wanted to provide an experience for people to discover that.
I took a friend with me—one who didn’t know anything about coffee—because I wanted to see the experience through her eyes. I didn’t tell her anything about how Minedrip worked—I just told her I would pay for her coffee.
I enjoyed the surprise and novelty of how her process began—it’s unusual to be invited to brew your own coffee, but that’s how Minedrip works. It’s also intriguing—the staff offers warm smiles, laughs, and reassurance. All of it conveys a sense of presence that says don’t worry, we’ll be here the whole way.
Selecting a coffee comes down to conversation, and a little help from the SCAA flavor wheel. Do you even like coffee? What kind of flavors do you enjoy? Would you like to try something fruity? Bitter? Full-bodied? Perhaps you’d like one of these?
The coffee selection comes from all over Japan: Glitch Coffee, And Coffee Roasters, Onibus Coffee, Trunk Coffee, The Wired Coffee Roasters, Sakai Coffee, COFFEE COUNTY, Vida Cafetera, and Nagasawa Coffee. Kodaira says selecting roasters was important, because it’s key to Minedrip expressing a spectrum of flavors in single-origin coffee.
The coffee was ground for us by our host, while we wet the filter of the V60. We smelled the grounds and put them in the cone. We were given some instructions on how to bloom, how to pour, and what sort of time to aim for, but there was never any pressure.
The look on my friend’s face changed slowly from a lukewarm, you brought me out here to pour water…? to a more delighted, this smells great. I’m actually doing this. It was refreshing to watch someone experience coffee brewing for the first time—to realize it was very simple at heart, and yet also a craft that benefited from care, preparation, and ingredients.
And at the end of it, a cup of coffee.
Minedrip doesn't put a price tag on its service. It’s a pay-what-you-want experience. Such a system is incredibly rare here, and Kodaira says it can sometimes result in confusion. But so far, he adds, customers have been generous.
Minedrip Coffee is open until November 30 and is planning a number of pour-over workshops run by participating roasters. The company also hopes to offer some in-house seminars, too.
And though I didn’t think my friend would run out to buy her own gear and start brewing at home, as we talked about coffee and Tokyo, I got the sense she’d developed a new respect for the act of brewing coffee—and the job of the barista.
It made the experience well worth the money I paid for it.