The night of January 30th saw Sarutahiko Coffee open the doors to Atelier Sengawa, its new roastery cafe: a spacious, two-story affair located in the cozy neighborhood of Sengawa, the plans for which we first told you about back in December. The opening party was a warm gathering of friends and customers sharing coffee and celebrating new starts, where even owner Tomoyuki Otsuka found some time to jump behind the espresso machine and pull a few shots.
The new Loring roaster can be found on the second floor—the installation of which required first removing the second floor windows, and then some very careful maneuvering. Talk to any member of the team involved in the installation and they’ll shake their heads with the exact same mix of relief and disbelief that says, “I can’t believe we got it up here, but thank the stars we did!”
The new roaster is also the first step towards creating a more comprehensive training center for new staff and competition preparation alike—and as 2015 sees head barista Zenji looking to find his stride in international competition, the timing is ideal.
Head Roaster and QC Manager, Hisanori Tsuzuki, who started his coffee roasting journey with a frying pan, still can’t quite believe the reality of the new space, but as he buzzes around giving tours, there’s a clear joy in his face at finally having his own roastery. “The location here is perfect,” he says, “and we’re really grateful to everyone who supported us. Thanks to that, we’ve been able to create this space.”
Downstairs, the long, open counter puts a focus on space and communication. The custom-designed brew bar at the entrance allows customers to engage staff as the brewing process takes place between them, while a few steps down the line is a white Alpha Dominche Steampunk per-cup coffee and tea brewer. At the far end of the counter you’ll find the Nuova Simonelli espresso machine, next to a modest kitchen for expanding the unique Sarutahiko snack menu.
The very center of the cafe hosts a massive coffee menu—simple, handwritten, and complete with cute, easy to follow diagrams.
It’s a buzz of activity as staff moves quickly behind the counter brewing tea and coffee for visitors and effortlessly slipping in to cover for one another as the situation calls for it. Watching the smooth maneuvering of the team in action, it starts to dawn on me why Sarutahiko’s information strategist Ryuta Suzuki jokingly refers to Atelier Sengawa as the Sarutahiko mothership.
When Tomoyuki Otsuka gets a chance to sit down and talk about the cafe, his face is a mix of happiness, relief, worry, accomplishment, and more than a hint of exhaustion. It’s been a series of long days and long nights to get the new place ready in time, but he’s happy to see it all running smoothly.
“This is a bit of a strange story,” he says, sitting back in his chair and thinking for a moment. “But those speakers up there in the corners, playing the music we’re listening to? I bought those maybe nine, ten years ago. It’s amazing to think of the journey since then. We’ve come a long way.”
Looking to the future, he adds, “There still aren’t that many roastery cafes here in Tokyo. Having one of our own really gives us the chance to further express who we are, what we do, and what we’re about. It’s also key to us maintaining a world-class level of coffee, and competing at the international level. It’s exciting, but for me, it still hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
And perhaps for the ever-busy owner of Sarutahiko Coffee, the reality is still a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. Nonetheless, one has to hope that when reality does sink in, and all the moving parts of Atelier Sengawa are in full swing, we’ll have seen the birth and development of a brand new coffee culture on the west side of Tokyo.