Sarutahiko Coffee Ebisu

One of the lovely espresso cups at Sarutahiko Coffee EbisuSarutahiko Coffee in Ebisu is another places which I discovered on my first visit to Tokyo in April 2017, but never had time to write up. I first came across Sarutahiko when I found its Omotesandō branch, around the corner from my office, which shares a multi-level space with a bookshop and travel agent. This branch, opposite Ebisu train station on the Yamanote Line (amongst others) is very different, being a stand-alone shop, but it shares the two winning factors from the Omotesandō branch: excellent coffee and, in a culture where service is king, uber-friendly and welcoming staff. In fact, even if I didn’t like the coffee so much, I’d be tempted back just to see the staff.

When it comes to coffee, Sarutahiko has one of the widest ranges of any coffee shop I know. There are six blends and six single-origins, with roasts from dark all the way to light, so there’s something for everyone. All the coffee is available as pour-over, while there’s the house-blend and a single-origin available on espresso. You can also buy retail bags of the beans, although there’s a much wider selection available in Sarutahiko’s retail shop just a few doors away.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • One road over from Ebusi Station in Tokyo, on the far side of the street...
  • ... is Sarutahiko Coffee, tucked away in this small corner shop.
  • Here's what it looked like in April 2017, when it was cool enough to sit outside!
  • The view from just inside the door (from 2017). As you can see, there's not a lot to it.
  • There's seating to the left and right, while the counter is at the back.
  • This is the counter as seen during my first visit in 2017...
  • ... and this is what it looked like when I was there last week.
  • The entire front of Sarutahiko is glass...
  • ... with a little window-bar to the right of the door.
  • Meanwhile, along the right-hand side, there's a window with a four-person window-bar.
  • Half of the window-bar in a rare, unoccupied moment.
  • The left-hand side is the domain of a row of two-person wooden tables.
  • One of the tables (at the end nearest the door)...
  • ... and a view of my table while I was sitting at it.
  • Another rare, unoccupied table moment, this time from 2017.
  • The opening hours are written up on this red board to the left of the counter.
  • Nice touches include these flowers...
  • ... while the decor can best be described as minimalist.
  • Light bulb, anyone.
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot (2017).
  • Obligatory light-fitting shot (2018).
  • As well as the seating, there is also a set of retail shelves to the right of the counter.
  • The retail shelves in more detail from my most recent visit in 2018...
  • ... and here's a similar but not identical view from 2017.
  • There's a pretty decent range of coffee for you to buy. This was 2017's selection...
  • ... while there are also various gift sets (again from 2017).
  • There was even a special Mother's Day Blend back in April 2017.
  • When it comes to drinking in, you order from the counter at the back...
  • ... with all the coffee being made off-stage in this area behind the counter.
  • There's pour-over at the front on the left, with one person going pretty much non-stop...
  • ... while the two-group Synesso is behind on the right with another dedicated barista.
  • The drink options (seen here from 2017) are on a chalk board by the counter...
  • ... while the available beans/blends are shown on this menu on the counter top.
  • Meanwhile, here are the espresso choices (from 2017).
  • Back in 2017, the beans were also in glass jars on the top of the retail shelves.
  • On my return, all three had been replaced by a single, all-purpose menu.
  • In 2017, having tried the pour-over and lattes at the Omotesandō branch, I went for...
  • ... the single-origin espresso, seen here in the most gorgeous espresso cup.
  • Lovely crema.
  • I returned twice in 2018, first trying the pour-over, served in this interesting mug...
  • ... with an over-sized handle and the logo on one side only.
  • I popped back later in the week to try thie latest single-origin espresso...
  • ... which again came in an amazingly beautful cup.
  • I bought a bag of a medium-roasted Kenyan filter coffee to take home with me...
  • ... which I also tried as a pour-over...
  • ... seen here on its own. I do like those mugs.
  • One neat thing about Sarutahiko is the staff, if they can, come to the door to say goodbye.
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Sarutahiko Coffee occupies the left-hand side of the ground floor of a modern, inelegant brick-built building. A central passageway runs through the building and Sarutahiko’s right-hand side, which runs along the passageway, is essentially one long window. This, coupled with an all-glass front, potentially makes it very bright. However, since it’s well set back under an overhanging brick projection, in reality it’s a shady spot, despite a south-facing aspect.

There’s not much to Sarutahiko: long and thin, the front section is maybe twice as deep as it is wide, with the counter at the back, effectively cutting the space in two. Behind it, all the coffee is made almost out of sight in a windowless space. There’s enough room for a row of three V60s in the front on the left, then at the back, along the right-hand wall, there’s a two-group Synesso espresso machine.

The seating is also rather crammed in, a sharp contrast to the open, airy spaces of the Omotesandō branch. There’s a two-person table outside to the right of the door and, when it’s not too hot (ie not during my visits in 2018 when it was 35⁰C), there’s a group of chairs to the left. Inside, a row of five two-person tables with stools runs along a bench on the left-hand wall, while a narrow bar to the right of the door doubles as a takeaway station. A four-person window-bar runs along the first part of the right-hand side, followed by a set of retail shelves which merge into the counter.

During my three visits it was always busy, people often queuing down the centre. Watching the staff at work was something special: wherever possible, someone would greet new customers as they enter with menus supplied to any queue, often along with samples of coffee.

I tried the single-origin espresso, a Panama Mama Cata, on my 2017 visit. Described as light and fruity in contrast to the dark, bitter house-blend, it was served in a gorgeous cup, one of the prettiest I’ve seen, but other than remarking that it was “lovely”, I cunningly forgot to take any notes.

On my return, exactly 15 months later, little had changed. This time I tried the pour-over, selecting the Bolivian Agro Tokest Typica, one of the lighter roasts. My coffee was again lovely, only this time I took notes, which tell me that it was very smooth, well-balanced and with delicate flavours (as you can see, my note-taking rarely adds much!).

This was served in a small mug with an over-sized handle, Sarutahiko’s logo arranged on one side, so that if you drink right-handed, like most people, the logo is facing outwards. This struck me as an interesting advertising strategy, although personally I’d have put the logo on both sides.

I returned for a final visit later in the week to try the single-origin espresso, a Bolivian Taypiplaya, again served in a gorgeous cup. This had a very strange, albeit nice, taste, almost smoky, not something I’ve tasted in an espresso before. I also bought a bag of a medium-roast Kenyan Gicherori to bring back as a gift, ordering it as a pour-over as well. After my experiences at Koffee Mameya, I was a little nervous, but this roast is not as dark, resulting in a wonderfully rich coffee with the fruity taste that I associate with Kenyans, but in a different frame, so to speak.

I left on something of a high, with the icing on the cake being the staff, who, if they can, come to the door to say goodbye when you leave.

December 2018: Sarutahiko Coffee Ebisu was a runner-up for the 2018 Happiest Staff Award.

1-6-6 EBISU • SHIBUYA-KU • TOKYO • 150-0013 • JAPAN +81 (0) 3-5422-6970
Monday 08:00 – 00:30 Roaster Sarutahiko (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 00:30 Seating Tables, Bar; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 00:30 Food Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 00:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 00:30 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 10:00 – 00:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 10:00 – 00:30 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 22nd April 2017, 22nd, 26th July 2018

You can see what the Commodities Connoisseur made of Sarutahiko Coffee in Part 4 of his excellent Tokyo coffee series.

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then take a look at the rest of Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Tokyo.

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3 thoughts on “Sarutahiko Coffee Ebisu

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