Tokyo is a frenetic rush of tens of millions of people in a hive of activity. All of that buzz has to come from somewhere, and it comes in part from tea, coffee, and adrenaline. Japan’s consumers demand high-quality ingredients, meticulous attention to detail, and impeccable presentation, so it’s no surprise that third wave coffee has a strong showing here. The third wave rests on a solid foundation of decades of kissaten (traditional coffee house) masters ritualistically making hand-drip and siphon coffee, one cup at a time.Read More
Your Guide to a Caffeinated Tokyo
1. Coffee Amp the Roaster
杉並区Kōenjiminami, 2 Chome−2−20-13
This tiny spot in funky Koenji packs a big punch. With seating for only about half a dozen, the shop has a small menu with a handful of drinks focusing on single-origin brews. As the name indicates, Coffee Amp roasts on site, and runs an online shop and wholesale business in addition to the little storefront. Pick up a fresh-roasted bag of beans and a filter drip to go before getting on with your day.
2. Glitch Coffee
Kanda Nishikichō, ３丁目3−１６ 香村ビル １Ｆ
Another micro-roaster in bookish Jimbocho, Glitch Coffee offers four to five beans per day, and when they’re out, they’re out. Glitch baristas are proponents of a super-light roast, a style that especially lets a bean’s fruity notes shine. Those who want regular coffee can choose a bean and receive a V60 hand-dripped cup, while espresso fans get whatever espresso’s roasted that day. The roaster sits in the cafe area and is a “shared” roaster — the shop’s proprietor lets others come by and roast a batch by appointment.
3. Paddlers Coffee
渋谷区Nishihara, 2 Chome−26−5
If Paddlers Coffee in the cozy backstreets of Hatagaya feels kind of like Portland, with its cabin-like interior, bicycles parked outside, and vintage record player, there’s a reason for that. Owner Daisuke Matsushima went to school in Portland and trained at Stumptown; the cafe now proudly serves Stumptown beans, shipped in weekly from Oregon. Brews here are generally medium roast, and they have a small but high-quality selection of pastries (like lemon poppyseed cake and plum tarts) as well as hot dogs to go with your cuppa.
4. Maruyama Coffee
Nishiazabu, 3 Chome−13−3
Originally founded in Karuizawa, Nagano, in 1991, Maruyama Coffee is now a small chain with about ten locations across Japan. Their Nishi-Azabu shop is hushed and lush, with a thick menu of coffee choices, sumptuous European-style cakes and sweets, and attentive waitstaff. Brews here are served in a French press in order to preserve the coffee’s oils. Maruyama regularly sends baristas to the World Barista Championship, and its staff have been finalists or winners the last few years. Their Omotesando location focuses on single-origin brews.
5. Coffee Wrights
Sangenjaya, 1 Chome−32−21
After opening their first shop in Sangenjaya, Coffee Wrights struggled to keep up with the demands of running both a shop and a 3-kg roaster in a limited space. They opened a second branch in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Kuramae in northeast Tokyo, and moved the roasting for both shops there. The coffee here is well-balanced and bright and comes in the usual espresso, macchiato, and café latte iterations, as well as an interesting espresso tonic: a sparkling, refreshing, citrusy drink. They offer occasional cuppings and other workshops.
6. Coffee Roast El Blanco
Hatanodai, 5 Chome−8−７
This unassuming spot in Hatanodai, Shinagawa, reveals treasures once you venture inside. Past shelves of crockery and brewing accoutrements, you’ll find a few dozen varieties of green beans. You can choose your beans, then they will roast and (if you like) grind them to your liking on the spot. Although the shop provides a free cup to sip while your beans roast, this is a coffee bean shop, rather than a café. If you’d like to defer to their expertise, they also have prepackaged drip coffee bags and snacks.
The first branch of Poem coffee house was established in 1966 as part of the wave of kissaten opened in the Showa era in Japan. The extensive menu offers more than a hundred choices of coffee, and the waiters in starched white shirts know their stuff, explaining origin, roasting, and prep. Their food offerings are classic kissa fare, such as pizza toast, Hayashi Rice (a kind of beef stew), and, at the Hatagaya location, freshly made scones. You’ll find jazz on the stereo, matchbooks on the counter (and smokers to go with them), and each cup of coffee is hand-ground to order.
In the heart of Harajuku, aka the capital of everything cute and sweet, Reissue Cafe specializes in latte art. Latte artists work with foam and crema to go beyond the usual hearts and fleurs-de-lys, to produce both 3D and 2D images ranging from Pikachu to pop idols. The price is a little steep, but the art is singular, fleeting, and eminently Instagram-worthy.
9. Satei Hatou
Satei Hatou captures the classic kissaten experience, with a retro menu of sandwiches and cake, classic music, and smoking indoors. You’ll find aged, charcoal-roasted beans and paper filter pourovers. The shop has had strong influence over third wave coffee roasters such as Blue Bottle, both in coffee craft and service and ambiance.
10. Single O
Yu Yamamoto, the head roaster at Single O Japan, traveled to Australia and found a job at Single Origin Roasters, an Australian third wave coffee roaster. He learned the craft of coffee roasting from square one and is now bringing his fresh perspective back to Japan.