Coffee News: from Seed to Cup

5 Must-Visit Specialty Coffee Shops in Tokyo, Japan

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Tokyo’s specialty coffee scene is exploding. Forget green tea, it’s time to order a single origin Yirgacheffe.

Only ten years ago, you would have struggled to find a decent shot of espresso – but, in the past five years, third wave roast profiles have begun to infiltrate the coffee scene.

So if you’re visiting the world’s largest city, we’ve created a shortlist of five unmissable specialty cafés for you.

SEE ALSO: Everything a Coffee Geek Needs to Buy in Japan

Why These Five?

It’s hard to narrow down the “best” cafés in Tokyo, if not outright impossible. And in a matter of months, there may be a whole new batch of exciting shops that could easily make this list.

But for now, here are some of my personal favorites. These five shops are certainly worth your time. All the crews are passionate about coffee and won’t hesitate to share their knowledge with you.

1. About Life Coffee Brewers

For a little window into Japan’s third wave scene, About Life is a must-visit spot. This stylish corner shop in the heart of bustling Shibuya is popular with both the hip tourist crowd and Japanese third wave enthusiasts.

You wouldn’t know it from the name, but About Life is the second location of Onibus Coffee. The team behind these cafés are obsessive about quality: every drink is test-tasted to make sure it meets their standards and the quality control manager is almost always on staff.

One of the coolest things about this café is that it also offers you a choice of drip and espresso coffees from other Japanese roasters. And they regularly feature international beans and guest baristas.

What’s more, the sleek, clean design of this compact café has attracted many admirers and may make it worth a visit in its own right – it’s now one of the most Instagrammed coffee shops in Japan. Just search #aboutlifecoffeebrewers to see what I mean.

Where 1-19-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku
Style Hip, compact, and urban
Espresso Machine La Marzocco Linea PB
Espresso Roast Medium Light
Filter Roast Medium Light
Must-Try Drink Ask the barista to recommend an espresso
Food  Small pasties

About Life coffee brewers coffee menu

A chic design and knowledgeable baristas at About Life Coffee Brewers. Credit: Eric S.Tessier

2. Fuglen

Fuglen is the coolest café/bar/furniture store combo that you’ve ever seen. And it’s been on the cutting edge of coffee all along.

Until recently they imported their beans from Oslo, but now they’ve begun their own roasting operation. Light-roasted citrusy beans are the name of the game here, and boy do they do it well. Fuglen manages to get all the acidic and fruity flavour profiles from a bean without even a hint of sourness.

They also sell vintage Norwegian furniture and offer an imaginative cocktail menu. It’s a great place to wake up with a bright shot of espresso – or wind down with a carefully crafted cocktail. Grab a spot on the couch if you can: surrounded by vintage goods, the mid-century vibe will make you feel extra classy as you sip.

Where

1-16-11 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku

Style

Vintage and classy

Espresso Machine

2 Group Slayer

Espresso Roast Light
Filter Roast Light
Must-Try Drink

Espresso or, if you feel like a cocktail, The Scandinavian Negroni

Food  Pastries

Fuglen coffee shop exterior

Relax in the sun at Fuglen. Credit: Eric S.Tessier

3. The Roastery by Nozy Coffee

The guys at The Roastery, Nozy Coffee’s inner-city location, really want people to drink coffee. Their mission is to help you appreciate it for its unique flavours – so they don’t mess around with other beverages.

Their focus is single origin espresso. There are always two beans to pick from and the selection often changes: one week it may be Colombian and Ethiopian, the next it could be Rwandan and Brazilian.

The space is expertly designed, with ample seating outside looking on to the fashionable Cat Street boutique area. Inside, you’ll find a dimly lit café with an enclosed workspace in the centre for the baristas. Just watch them hustling around the two espresso machines, trying to keep up with the demands of their customers.

They only offer espresso-based drinks at the main point of sale, so your choices are limited to an espresso, a latte, or an americano. If espresso isn’t your thing, head to the back of the café where they sell coffee beans and ask for a pour over.

Where

5-17-13 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku

Style

Inside: industrial decor with fast-moving baristas at the core

Outside: comfortably chic – a great spot to be on a sunny day

Espresso Machine

2 Group Synesso Hydra

Espresso Roast Medium Light
Filter Roast Medium Light
Must-Try Drink

Espresso (served in a wine flute or a snifter)

Food  Pastries, donuts, and ice cream

baristas working at the roastery coffee shop japan

Busy people making great coffee at The Roastery. Credit: Eric S.Tessier

4. Arise Coffee Entangle

Arise is located a step away from Tokyo’s more hectic areas, on the outskirts of a beautiful garden park. It’s a favorite spot for both locals and coffee enthusiasts.

Offerings include a variety of expertly prepared drip coffees in a hip café setting: you can usually choose from between five and seven beans. The roaster, who is located down the road, is eager to try beans from new locations, different altitudes, and with different processing techniques, so there’s always something interesting on offer.

They have some pastries and light sandwiches here too, but it’s hard to beat their Nakatsu-san Cake: a slice of chocolate cake with a layer of flan on top. Yum!

Where 3-1-4 Kiyosumi, Koto
Style

Funky and comfortable

Espresso Machine

N/A

Espresso Roast N/A
Filter Roast Medium Light
Must-Try Drink Filter Coffee from the Torch Donut Dripper
Food  Pastries, small sandwiches, and cake

barista at work at arise coffee shop

Wake up at Arise. Credit: Eric S.Tessier

5. Switch Coffee

Switch takes its coffee seriously. Its unwavering commitment to quality makes it impossible to ignore. And interestingly, they’re all about proving that good coffee can be made at home without specialty equipment. One of the ways they show this is by using a regular kettle for their pour overs, rather than a gooseneck.

There are always carafes of coffee lined up at the point-of-sale counter with origins scrawled on the stainless steel countertop in wet-erase marker. If you start asking questions about coffee, you’ll soon find the baristas giving you tastes from this line-up.

The owner puts more emphasis on his roasting operation than on his decor, so the no-frills café space has limited seating. It’s designed more for the standing espresso drinker or the to-go customer. But that’s not a bad thing: this setup means that you’re closer to the baristas and the production area.

Where

1-17-23 Meguro, Meguro-ku

Style

Friendly and open, but deadly serious about coffee

Espresso Machine

La Marzocco Linea Classic

Espresso Roast Medium Light
Filter Roast Medium Light
Must-Try Drink Espresso & Tonic
Food  N/A

coffee samples in hario range servers

Sample coffees on the bar at Switch Coffee. Credit: Eric S.Tessier

There you have it: five must-visit coffee houses in the non-stop megacity of Tokyo. But in a place this big, there are always more specialty cafés to find. So once you’ve tried these five, I encourage you to explore somewhere new. Who knows what you’ll discover…

Written by E. Tessier and edited by H. Paull.

Perfect Daily Grind.

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