Finding a good coffee shop in Tokyo is easy. In a country where attention to detail and food are both taken seriously, finding craft coffee, with hand picked beans, perfectly roasted, and poured, (often not once but twice if the barista is not happy with the texture, colour or consistency of your coffee) is, if not common place, then at least never too many steps your coffee craving self.
A little research, and some curious wanders led us to some of the most wonderfully fragrant coffee in Tokyo. And there were plenty of cafes we didn’t manage to try, just waiting for you to enjoy their brew. So ditch the Hot or Cold Boss Coffee in the vending machines ( if you can) and try to sample some of the delights in the following shops on your next adventure in Tokyo.
Cafe Exlibris Japan, 〒155-0032 東京都世田谷区 代沢５丁目８−１６
I think this place blew Milos mind. I wasn’t feeling too well one day, and he went off exploring on his own, tracked down this coffee shop at the other end of Shimokitazawa and spent an hour or so discovering the allure of coffee all over again. He came home and relayed his experience with tasting the number one coffee in the world, and his descriptions of how this coffee actually tasted of the flavours and notes – hints of orange, a touch of chocolate, spicey and robust, that were mentioned on the little card that accompanied the coffee, sold me on trying the coffee out on another occasion. So off we traipsed another day and enjoyed a lovely cup of coffee in this cafe gem. Not only was the coffee super uber yummy, but the cafe itself was a delight. Light, and filled with sun. Objects, tables and chairs, seemingly placed at random, but clearly resulting in the best arrangement. Everything so zen. An odd, but perfect amalgamation of French cafe and Japanese style, or Japanese cafe and French style. I’m not sure which, but it worked, and it complemented my coffee. Totally recommended.
Yanaka Coffee, Somewhere in Shimokitazawa
This was one of the many neighbourhood kissaten (coffee shop) that so frequently dot Tokyo’s streets. Full of different packets of beans, ready to be tried, tested, bought, and tried and tested again at home. We sat outside one morning and enjoyed a pleasant cup of dark coffee while planning the day ahead exploring the city. Forget about the online reviews and walk into a random place, and try it out for yourself. More often than not you will find yourself in a perfect cafe, with the perfect cup of coffee, and a new experience all of your own. I know if you have a serious coffee habit, the tendency would be to traverse a city in a “Gotta Catch em All” Pokemon-esque style. But in Tokyo, you can really find great little spots with wonderful coffee completely off the hard core coffee aficionado route.
Cafe de l’ambre
8 Chome-10-15 Ginza,
Chuo, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan
We visited this ancient coffee house after a superb sushi dinner in Ginza. It was like stepping back in time. Leather banquettes and bar stools, each corner focused on the serious imbibing of delicious coffee. And with some wonderfully unusual choices, like 18 year old Brazilian coffee, or equally potent blends from other corners of the world such as Costa Rica and Ethiopia. The service is friendly and unhurried. It was the perfect digestif after our dinner.
3 Chome-31-3 Kitazawa
Setagaya, Tokyo 155-0031
I loved this place too. Just up the road from Bear Pond in Shimo. It was truly a Japanese Coffee Shop. It reminded me of hours spent at the Piro Cafe in Koriyama, where we worked 7 years ago. Just across the park from our home, we would head here for the blue mountain coffee and enjoy wonderful lunches accompanied by a self playing piano shrouded in hanging plants. Cafe Use is quiet and quaint. Lots of odd little rules, but wonderfully fragrant coffee, which you can see being sorted in person at the front of the coffee shop. I also loved that there was a tiny aquarium filled with pet hermet crabs in the entrance. The decor was unique: lanterns, tin diesel posters, and wood; the coffee was served in beautiful pastel green glass cups. No Milk allowed. Brilliant.
Bear Pond Espresso 2 Chome-36-12 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo 155-0031, Japan
This was our daily staple while staying in Shimokitazawa. Our apartment was located practically right above the shop in the same street, and so Milos would nip down each day for an espresso. Only pulled before 2pm I think. This guy takes his espresso seriously. Don’t kid about in his shop. Go in for your coffee, NO LATTES, NO NONSENSE, and leave. This is not a cafe for lounging about updating your instagram, its for licking up each last drop of perfect espresso. And the espresso is all that. We couldn’t figure it out. How does he do it? I personally think it’s the no F%&*ks-given-grumpyness that adds the magic, but no doubt it’s really down to years of careful apprenticeship in NYC and hours spent perfecting the superb tiny cup. This is coffee to kick you in the butt, to prepare you for another day in the Megalopolis that is Tokyo.
The Roastery by Nozy Coffee 5_17_13 Jingumae, Shibuya 150-0001
We landed with our bums in the butter in Tokyo, with another apartment, randomly but excellently cloistered next to The Roastery. Every morning the smell of slowly cooking beans drifted in our window, and we woke up with coffee cravings. We enjoyed some marvellous French press coffee here, and the baristas were always friendly, offering us advice on what beans to try, and what method suited them best, always delivering delicious coffee. The cafe is also well appointed, with little tables and a nice airy layout. You can sip on your coffee quite leisurely on some outside tables enjoying watching the foot traffic on Cat Street while you take your time with your coffee. Nozy Coffee supplies a number of Bistros with coffee in the surrounding neighbourhoods of Tokyo, so you may have unwittingly enjoyed a cup of their beans without realising.
Sarugaku Coffee Daikanyama
This was such a fun experience. No photos allowed, but I like that that added to it’s almost secret appeal. And secret it was. You almost needed a treasure map to find the place, and once you are ensconced at a table, you feel as if you have been transported to a pirate ship. Full of dark panelling, the basement level cafe is full of nooks and crannies, the corners stuffed with vintage odds and ends. Old instruments rub shoulders with posters from the 40s, and little dim lights emit red and orange glows over each table. The coffee selection is short and simple. Regular, bitter or strong. Milos has Strong, I have Regular. Both are fantastic, and cement our love of coffee. We are the only customers , and feel as if we have uncovered a pot of gold. Our coffee steams and curls and our spoons glint in the light. Yum.
Omotesando Koffee Japan, 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, 神宮前４丁目１５−３
With only two tiny stools in the miniature Japanese garden, Omotesando Koffee is more like a coffee Take out than a regular cafe. With hordes of tourists getting lost in the back suburbs of Omotesando to track down it’s famous coffee, you may find yourself in a line for a cup, expectantly waiting along with all the others who managed to find the shop. It’s worth it though, the coffee is lovely, and the setting even lovelier. The tiny tatami mat room, with single counter and barista preparing your cup, a just-right Japanese arrangement. This is the Ikebana of coffee in Tokyo. And just getting there will get you off the beaten track and expose you to an interesting side of suburban Tokyo. It wasn’t perhaps the best coffee we had, but it was certainly worth the mission.
Streamer Coffee Japan, 〒150-0002 Tokyo, Shibuya, 渋谷１丁目２０−２８
On the border of Shibuya and Harajuku, Streamer coffee was a short distance from our rental, and relatively close to The Roastery. Their speciality is the ever increasingly popular latte, with pre-requisite creamy art. Unfortunately neither Milos nor I have developed a taste for cappucinos or cafe lattes, so so we didn’t partake. We did order ourselves a sticky bun to go along with our regular black americanos, and enjoyed both our coffee and snack in their industrial style minimal cafe, filled with skate boards, metal, wood and exposed concrete. The cafe was filled with people on laptops plugged into outlets for this purpose, and seemed like a good place to get some emails done while enjoying a cup of coffee.
Have you tried any Coffee Shops in Tokyo or Japan, do You have favourites?