Barista Magic At 10 Of Tokyo’s Hottest Cafés

The Capital's Top Locations For The Perfect Java Fix

By Nano Betts
May 19, 2017
Food & Drink

From hipster spots to coffee shops running for over half a century, Tokyo has it all when it comes to coffee.

“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now,” wrote Louisa May Alcott in Little Women, and we find ourselves nodding. Because compliments can lie, but coffee — the real one — will never fool you. And as our beloved Jackie Chan also said: “Coffee is a language in itself” — whether you enjoy a morning hand-drip cup in central Tokyo or an afternoon espresso in Paris, coffee is culture and it speaks to you, loud and clear.

In the past decade, Tokyo’s coffee culture has flourished and there are plenty of local coffee shops in the metropolis pouring piping-hot, next-level liquid energy and going above and beyond with their bean game. Impeccably sourced, small batch, locally roasted – Tokyo delivers it all. You just need to know where to look for them. So, here’s a round-up of the currently ten hottest coffee shops in the capital (in no particular order) where you can have a truly enjoyable cup of joe, in true Tokyo-style.

#1 Lattest Omotesando Espresso Bar

The atmosphere here is relaxed, hip and trendy with bare concrete walls and cool décor statement pieces like a huge wooden table, and metal chairs. You will always be warmly welcomed by friendly female baristas who make sure coffee comes with elaborate latte art. Free wifi is a huge bonus, which makes it a perfect spot to bring your laptop and catch up on work. I recommend trying their classic latte, as well as the signature “caramel lattest shot”, which is essentially created by pouring a shot of hot espresso into cold milk.

Address: 3-5-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: 5-min walk from Omotesando station’s A2 exit

#2 Bear Pond Espresso

“DIRTY” B.P.E Signature Drink. #bearpondespresso #cafe #coffee #espresso #barista #roasters #drinks

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If you go off the beaten path and find yourself in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo’s bohemian neighborhood, make sure to check out this tiny shop which has gained cult following for its phenomenal cup of third wave coffee. The man behind the counter is Katsu Tanaka who honed his barista skills and spent the majority of his adult life in New York City. Coffee here is strong and bold — with names like “Dirty” and “Angel Stain” for its signature brews, you figure this out the moment you step in. Personally, I enjoyed Gibraltar, a condensed version of latte, but if you’re an espresso aficionado, Angel Stain – Bear Pond’s famed signature espresso served only until 1 p.m. (with a maximum of 30 per day), is your ultimate cup of coffee.

Address: 2-36-12 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Access: Shimokitaza station

#3 Café Kitsune

Décor here is a mélange of traditional and modern incorporating Japanese touches like custom-made tatami, Japanese monograms strewn throughout the walls and fusuma sliding doors. The in-house baristas were trained by Omotesando Koffee’s Eiichi Kunitomo, the skills of whom are incorporated in the strong flavors and smooth finish of every cup of coffee here.

Address: 3-17-1 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: Omotesando station, A4 or A5 exits

#4 Cafe de L’Ambre

Head here for a taste of something retro and an atmosphere of a traditional Japanese kissaten (coffee shop). Located in the backstreet of bustling and luxurious Ginza, time seems to have ignored L’Ambre. Founded in 1948, this age-stained shop looks more like a relic together with its owner Ichiro Sekiguchi, who turned 102 this year. The selection of beans on offer is astounding, highlights including aged beans like a 1954 Colombian or a ’95 Guatemalan. While a choice of meticulously brewed, artisanal blends is endless, for me personally, the real draw was the iced coffee, chilled in a cocktail shaker and served in a Champagne glass. As a typical kissaten, smoking is normal here, so not recommended for non-smokers.

Address: 8-10-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Access: Ginza station, A3 or A4 exits or Shimbashi station Exit 1

#5 Little Nap Coffee Stand

You’ll find this java gem rather tiny (as its name implies), but the lack of space is more than compensated by the always warm welcome from charismatic baristas and excellent espresso brews. The owner Daisuke Hamada is equally skilled in hand brewing or tuning up his shiny Synesso machine. I highly recommend their latte – mine was velvety with a mellow acidity and milk that coaxed sweetness out of the beans.

Address: 5-65-4 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: Yoyogi Hachiman station

#6 Streamer Coffee Company

Owned by 2008 Free Pour Latte Art Champion Hiroshi Sawada, this spot does everything coffee-related, but it’s best known for its latte art – something that requires a perfectly extracted shot of espresso and advanced milk steaming technique, and these guys here know exactly how to do that. Indeed, coffee here is not just visually appealing, but also incredibly tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed my cup of “Mudslide,” silky and syrupy with hints of delicate acidity. With a goal of “connecting people through coffee,” this place is the perfect one to go to with a friend who knows what good coffee is — you’ll still end up impressing them.

Address: 1-20-28, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: Shibuya station

#7 Fuglen

Coffee shop by day and cocktail bar by night, Fuglen (translated as “the bird” from Norwegian) was imported from Oslo and is located across Yoyogi Park. You’ll find this place very amusing (especially if you come from northern Europe), as despite being a cafe and bar, it’s also a physical showcase of ‘50s, ‘60s Norwegian vintage design — and you can buy everything that’s on display. The shop’s coffee selection is great, the taste is authentic, and the vibe, cozy and somehow nostalgic. Their  latte is decorated with beautiful fruity undertones and has a velvety finish. You can enjoy your coffee in the small, stylish ambiance or take it to Yoyogi Park. I enjoyed mine with the side of Viron’s freshly baked pain aux raisins. Heaven!

Address: 1-16-11 Tomigaya, Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Access: Yoyogi Koen station, Tomigaya south exit

#8 The Roastery by Nozy

One of the most popular stops for good coffee and a quick bite in Harajuku, the Roastery by Nozy is a place where you won’t be bothered no matter how crowded it gets. Located in the fashion forward shops along Harajuku’s Cat Street, here you can work, read, chill and chat away in a very European and modern-style environment. The shop roasts its own beans, offering blends and a selection of single-origin coffees that change frequently. You are always greeted with friendly staff who provide information on the daily brews.

Address: 5-17-13 Jungumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Access: Meijijingumae station, Exit 5

#9 Coutume Aoyama

The Parisian import Coutume Aoyama is a perfect spot to enjoy light roasts and sleekly fashionable interior complimented with spacious outdoor seats – something of a luxury in Tokyo. They offer both hand drip-style and espresso-based coffees paired with excellent sandwiches, galettes — and of course, sweets (their carrot cake is something you must try). You can also find smoothies, organic teas and other goodies perfectly fit for a health-cautious clientele.

Address: 5−9−15 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Access: Omotesando station, B1 exit

#10 Onibus Coffee

Sandwiched between the train tracks and a children’s park of Naka-Meguro, Onibus Coffee is one of the quickest growing specialty coffee roasters in Tokyo. Its founder Sakao Atsushi, an architect-turned-barista, has been attracting coffee lovers from all over the world since he opened his first shop — Onibus Coffee Okusawa — a few years ago. The name “Onibus” (which means public bus in Portuguese) corresponds to Atsushi-san’s desire to connect people via coffee. He is highly quality driven and careful with his coffee preparations. The espresso, is pulled on a La Marzocco Linea PB. For filter coffees, made via glass Hario V60s, they offer a variety of single origin beans. The design of the cafe, too, is impressive; while the first floor serves as a roastery and cafe workspace, you’ll find communal seating with custom made tables and stools overlooking the park on the second floor.

Address: 2-14-1 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Access: Naka-meguro station

More from the Savvy Tokyo coffee scene: For a list of five of Tokyo’s best retro-style kissaten, click here. You can find Wi-fi cafes here and the top five places for a quiet afternoon reading with coffee, here.  

Savvy Tokyo will be putting a guide of the best coffee places in Japan (not just Tokyo) later in the year, based on readers’ recommendations and our own absolutely favorites. Help us build this list by sharing your favorite coffee shop in Japan in the comments below or by sending us photos to Facebook or Instagram with a hashtag #SavvyTokyoCoffee. Thank you all!!

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