Woodberry Coffee Roasters is one of those cafes that instantly intrigued me when I entered the door. I had been searching for a decent shot of espresso somewhere closer to home, and my wife pointed out that Yoga Station had an interesting looking cafe that was featured in one of my Japanese coffee magazines. Apparently the coffee was good there.
Woodberry is dimly lit, and the wooden counter, benches, and shelves are a warm hazelnut brown. A good chunk of the counterspace is taken up by a turntable and a stack of records, mostly from 60s and 70s American artists. The workspace for the baristas is relatively spacious, but is crowded with tools of the trade. The staff is young, friendly, and there is a sense of seriousness to them that took me by surprise. The espresso (A naturally processed Ethiopian at the time) was bright and sweet. For these reasons and more I wanted to know about the origins of this cafe and sent an e-mail to the owner, Mr. Kihara.
Judging by the low lighting, warm feeling of the cafe (that somehow reminded me of a grandpa’s study), the vintage records, and the tube amplifier, I expected Kihara to be a 60-year-old man who somehow managed to remain hip through his years. I was stunned when a shaggy haired, soft spoken 25-year-old approached me and introduced himself as Kihara.
Kihara was born in Yoga, but hasn’t always lived there. When he was in college he studied abroad in Arkansas. It was there that he discovered coffee as a craft. At the local cafe he frequented, Edge, he noticed that depending on the barista or the day the coffee could taste very different. There it dawned on him that good coffee takes skill and care to craft, and this led him to travel to New York City to tour some of the specialty coffee scene.
Kihara wanted to bring good coffee to his town and with the help of his friends built Woodberry Coffee in 2012. When I say built, I mean it. The cafe was hand built by the staff. During this interview Kihara pointed sheepishly to a deep cut that extended into the counter and explained that they learned as they built. Recently they built a second, smaller coffee stand closer to Yoga Station. “We did a better job on that one.” he said with a smile. The second location, He says, was built because things were getting too crowded behind the counter.
The philosophy of Woodberry is to show people that coffee is delicious. All coffees aren’t just chocolatey and smokey coffee blends that are roasted specifically to have milk and sugar added. Well made coffee can be enjoyed on it’s own. Kihara and his crew roast their own beans in shop on a little Lucky Roaster, and have a variety of roasts ranging from light to medium. Preferring natural processed coffees, Kihara takes a certain delight in serving up a latte or a pour-over made with brighter flavored coffees. If his customers are intrigued by the floral, strawberry like taste that comes naturally from the bean he’s doing his job right.
Woodberry coffee has become a part of the fabric here in Yoga. They offer coffee workshops several times a month, and have a steady following of regulars. They are a bit out of the way from areas traditionally frequented by tourists but offer the backdrop of a genuine community and the comfort of a warm cup of well-crafted coffee accompanied by the soft tones of vinyl music.
Woodberry Coffee Roasters is located at:
Setagaya-ku, Tamagawadai, 2-22-17, Tokyo
Oyama Dori Location:
Setagaya-ku, Yoga, 4-11-2, Tokyo