Like two of my recent Tokyo posts, today’s Saturday Short is a roastery/coffee shop, although this one, Single O, is from my current visit (I was there yesterday). Like Switch Coffee Roasters in Meguro and the now closed coffee bar at Fuglen Coffee Roasters, Single O is not somewhere you would stumble upon by accident. Somewhat off the beaten (tourist) track, down a lane off a side-street in an anonymous grid of streets in Ryogoku, east of Sumida River, it is at least noticeable when you get there. The large outside seating area is clearly visible from the street, while, if the sliding doors are fully retracted, so is the counter.
There’s not much to the tasting bar, just the aforementioned counter, beyond which, behind another set of sliding doors, is the roastery. As always, the coffee’s the draw with either the Reservoir blend on espresso or a selection of seasonal single-origins (three during my visit) as pour-overs through the V60 or Aeropress. And that’s it, other than some retail bags of coffee for sale.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Single O began in 2003 in the Surry Hills (sadly for me, not the hills outside my home in Guildford, but the Surry Hills in Sydney, on the other side of the world). The Tokyo offshoot (which is, at least, slightly closer to me) opened in 2014 and boasts a neat tasting bar that’s open at weekends and Mondays. The rest of the week, it’s by appointment only while the roasting gets done.
Single O is literally down an alley off a side-street. Set back from the street, there’s plenty of room for an outdoor seating area, sheltered under a large awning projecting from the roastery. There’s a long, wooden bench-seat on the left, two wooden boxes acting as coffee tables. Meanwhile, on the other side of the boxes from the bench, is a line of plastic stools.
The right-hand side is clear, giving you easy access to the interior, a high-ceilinged, open space with set of sliding wood/glass doors at the front and a simple counter on the right, the space reminding me somewhat of Brooklyn’s Parlor Coffee. The counter’s short side faces front, a shiny La Marzocco Linea to the fore. You also order here, the long side being reserved for pour-overs.
To the left is the obligatory green-bean store, while beyond that, separated from the tasting bar by another set of floor-to-ceiling sliding wood/glass doors, is the roastery proper, with more sacks of green beans surrounding an impressive 22kg Probat roaster. All the green beans, by the way, are sourced from Single O’s Sydney headquarters, giving Single O access to some fairly exclusive (for Tokyo) farms/origins, most of which Single O directly trades with.
Although sitting outside is tempting, three bar stools line the counter, the perfect spot to sit and chat with the barista while watching your coffee being made. Naturally, that’s where I ended up, chatting with Yuuki, one of just four members of staff, who doubles as head roaster.
The menu is commendably short, offering espresso, espresso with milk or filter. The former uses the seasonal Reservoir Blend, while for filter you can have any of Single O’s singe-origins. There were three during my visit (the fourth, a Colombian, having just run out), with the Mpito from Tanzania, catching my eye.
I sat and chatted with Yuuki while he made my coffee (a V60 pour-over), which came with an information sheet in Japanese and English. Along with the usual notes (variety, altitude, processing) was a short piece about the cooperative in Tanzania, highlight the progress they were making, an excellent touch. The coffee itself was rich and complex, a nice contrast to subtle, fruity Ethiopians/Kenyans I had over the last few days. I was sufficiently impressed that I obtained a bag to bring back with me, exchanged for a copy of my book, The Philosophy of Coffee.
December 2018: Single O Tasting Bar was a runner-up for the 2018 Best Roaster/Retailer Award.
May 2023: I finally made it to Australia, ending my trip in Sydney where, naturally enough, I made a beeline for Single O’s Surry Hills cafe.
|2-23-2 KAMEZAWA • SUMIDA-KU • TOKYO • 130-0014 • JAPAN|
|Monday||08:00 – 16:00||Roaster||Single O (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||CLOSED||Seating||Counter, Table (outside)|
|Friday||CLOSED||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||10:00 – 18:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||10:00 – 18:00||Power||No|
|Chain||No||Visits||20th October 2018|
If you liked this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Tokyo.
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