Tokyo | It’s all about the beans
The Japanese have a knack for embracing international trends, mastering them, and then reincarnating them back in the motherland, except doing it ten times better. This is no truer for the bourgeoning coffee scene in Tokyo. Whole in the wall coffee stands are at every corner, complete with a hipster barrister tending to your single origin beans and asking if you would like it drip brewed or espresso today.
Just to prove how serious Tokyoites are about their coffee two homegrown baristas took out the World Barista and World Aeropress Championships consecutively in 2014. And it’s not just about the end cup, roasteries are also becoming very prevalent including locals, ARiSE, Coffee Amp and Nozy Coffee against internationals who have recognised the growing scene, Fuglen from Norway, Coutume from France, New Zealand Allpress Espresso and most recently Blue Bottle Coffee from California.
So now that I know Tokyo means business, where are the top picks for that perfect cup? This is by no means a conclusive list but a good place to start.
Switch Coffee | Meguro
Fresh faced Switch Coffee is tucked away on a residential street of Meguro and is truly serious about their beans. They carefully select quality beans directly from producers around the globe and roast them onsite. There is a board out the front of the shop with alluring tasting descriptions such as; ‘Fresh fruit taste like mandarin juice. Mouthfeel is smooth with excellent clarity. A lingering aftertaste with the sweetness of black honey.’
The only seating is a bench on the pavement, which was drenched in afternoon sun on my visit and the perfect spot to savour a deliciously crafted café latte. Even top chef Rene Redzepi proclaimed Switch the best cup in town on a recent visit to Tokyo. If it’s good enough for Rene….
Address: 153-0063 東京都目黒区 目黒１丁目１７−２３
Open: Daily 10:00 – 19:00
Lattest Espresso Bar | Omotesando
Strolling the stylish streets of the Omotesando Hills you would expect the coffee stakes to also be high. Lattest Espresso Bar is exactly that, super trendy, communal high wooden tables with the latest fashion and culture mags to peruse whilst you take a much needed break from the shopping beat. And what makes this coffee joint a cut above the rest, its run by a team of girl only baristas. A refreshing change from such a male dominated scene.
Address: 東京都 渋谷区 神宮前 3-5-2
Open: Mon-Fri 10:00 – 19:00 Sat-Sun 12:00 – 19:00
Paddlers Coffee | Yoyogiuehara
Ultra laid back, Paddlers wants you to feel like you’ve walked into a log cabin and can kick back and stay awhile. Exclusively using beans from Stumptown Roastery in Portland, the brew is strong and aromatic. A vintage record player turns out the tunes of the day and the friendly baristars are happy to converse in English.
Address: 2-26-5 Nishihara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Little Nap Coffee Stand | Yoyogi
You could be easily mistaken for thinking you are in Melbourne or Brooklyn when coming across Little Nap Coffee Stand. It oozes inconspicuous cool. On a quiet side street opposite the west side of Yoyogi Park it is just doing its thing serving up perfectly brewed coffee and a selection of sandwiches and small treats. A perfect spot to grab some take-away and head to the park.
Address: 151-0053 東京都渋谷区 代々木５丁目６５−４
Open: Tues-Sun 09:00 – 19:00
Sarutahiko Coffee | Ebisu
This was my first coffee encounter in Tokyo and from where I realised that something serious was happening in the coffee scene here. An impressive drip brew set up with a choice of bean variety and an espresso machine for your usual. It seems no matter what time of day there is always a queue for Sarutahiko Coffee, with a few small tables and seats inside and out it is worth sitting and lingering even just for the people watching.
Address: 150-0013 Tokyo, Shibuya 恵比寿1−6−6 斎藤ビル1F
Open: Mon-Fri 08:30 – 00:30 Sat-Sun 10:00 – 00:30
Sidewalk Stand | Nakameguro
Sidewalk Stand is exactly that, on the leafy side street which runs along the canal through Nakameguro. It is the place to be seen with your super cool fixie leaning against the brick wall or your French bulldog tied to the bench. With a small offering of sandwiches, craft beer and of course coffee you can stay and sip and talk about your day with the chatty barista.
Address: 青葉台1-23-14 Meguro-ku, Tokyo, Japan