Tokyo’s Hottest Instagram-Worthy Cafés Reviewed

Finding Out The Truth Behind #tokyocafe

By C. Salvatore
October 23, 2020
Food & Drink

When it comes to café culture, Tokyo doesn't disappoint. But have you ever wondered if the cafés are as great as they seem on social media?

I’ve got a bad Instagram habit and a bad sweet tooth. The two of them together have turned into a never-ending cycle of finding cafes, spending too much, eating too much, and I’m not even sure if I love or regret it. With all the Tokyo cafes I’ve found on Instagram, a lot of them have been great but some have been overhyped, and I wish I had checked the reviews beforehand. 

So, in order to level out your expectations and also help step up your Instagram game, I’m reviewing four cafes that I’ve seen on #tokyocafe lately. 


Bongen Coffee: traditional Japanese garden as a coffee shop

 

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If there’s one habit I’ve picked up in Tokyo, it’s a coffee habit. Maybe it’s the stress, maybe it’s being a working woman, maybe it’s the edgy atmosphere of a coffee shop in a major metropolitan city—but I never cared for the stuff until I came here, and now I’ve become a snob for it.

Bongen Coffee appeared on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago, looking like the coffee shop version of a tranquil Japanese garden. The picture was of their matcha affogato—and as all my friends know, I am a snob for matcha as much as I am for coffee. So matcha, espresso, and vanilla ice cream? I was on the next train to Ginza.

Best café in Tokyo, Bongen in Ginza

Quality and taste-wise, Bongen Coffee did not disappoint. The matcha affogato was to die for; an earthy, bitter taste that was offset perfectly by the ice cream. The place clearly knows it’s green tea, for even the matcha latte was taken an extra step above, with just enough matcha to not overshadow the creamy espresso. The menu was overwhelmed with different blends and even had the high-end Geisha, which is named from the town it comes from: Gesha, Ethiopia. (We asked the barista, thinking it was the female Japanese entertainer we all love, and he chuckled at us.)

Price was a bit on the higher side (around ¥600), but for a tiny, local shop in the middle of Ginza, it’s what I was expecting. The atmosphere was nice and relaxing and the shop was bare besides the small counter area. Sparsely decorated with bonsai trees, the minimalist design here was on point. The only downside I could find was the size—it was no bigger than the living area of a 1K apartment, and there was only a wooden bench for seating. It’s definitely not a place to study or spend the afternoon at, but for a quick coffee break with friends, it’s perfect. If there are no spots available, or you’re worried about social distancing in these Covid times, the shop is tucked into a quiet little side street, and taking your coffee outside is just as peaceful.

The Deets

Address: Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-16-3
Tel: 03-6264-3988
Open: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Price: around ¥500 at the cheapest, most drinks were in the ¥680 range
Instagram: @ginza_bongen
Website: Ginza Bonsen


Maca Presso: Macarons taken to the next level

 

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Whoever told you that you lose weight when you come to Japan lied—how can you with all the delicious-looking food and sweets, especially in Tokyo? I kind of resent this city for introducing me to macarons, a French sweet I could never find in my hometown. When Maca Presso popped up on my feed—adorable designs, and mountains of cream and all—I went to Shin Okubo the next weekend to try it.

And I don’t regret it—these macarons were bomb. The cookie was your average macaron but the cream made the experience, and it was some splendid stuff. Even though the cookie was average width, the cream added a good two layers to it, and inside the cream was a dreamy filling based on the cookie’s flavor. The café also had some insane, milkshake-like drinks (named “Macacchino”), that I would’ve tried if I hadn’t just spent ¥1,200 on three cookies. My only regret is the stomachache I got afterward for eating too many of them.

Macapresso

Price-wise, it wasn’t the cheapest. But for the taste and the amount of cream you get in the cookie, I’m not complaining. The atmosphere was casual and feminine, and the majority of customers were high school-aged or young women, which is the average crowd of Shin Okubo.

The Deets

Address: Shinjuku, Hyakunincho, 2−3−21 The City Shin Okobu 2F
Tel: 03-6380-3875
Open: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Price: starting at ¥325 per macaron, around ¥500 for coffee, ¥840 for the Macaccino
Instagram: @macapresso
Twitter: @macapresso


Okusawa Factory Coffee and Bakes: your neighborhood coffee shop

 

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This shop was a cute, trendy little gem in the residential neighborhood of Okusawa. Coffee was average and the sweets were hipster. They offered nontraditional ones for Japan, such as carrot cake and scones, though the shop seems to be most well-known for their pudding. I tried the peach and raspberry Victorian chiffon cake, which was a refreshing treat after waiting outside 30 minutes for a seat. 

Although the food was good, it was the atmosphere that made the place. Cute and trendy, with decorations such as old school luggage that reminded me of those old-time 1940’s photos. This place is definitely good for your Instagram or your next vintage photoshoot. The only downside was it was a bit small and seating inside was a bit limited, so it’s better to go on a weekday to avoid waiting too long.

Okusawa Factory

The Deets

Address: Setagaya, Okusawa, 3-30-15
Tel: 03-6873-7067
Open: Weekdays 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat./Sun 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Price: around ¥400 for drinks, starting at ¥550 for dessert
Instagram: @okusawafactory
Facebook: Okusawa Facebook page


Reissue: latte art masters

 

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I’ve seen this place recommended by YouTube J-vloggers, and honestly, I wanted to avoid it at first because of how well-known it was. (My arrogant, café hipster is showing, I know—but I wanted to include cafes not many people have reviewed.)

However, my biggest regret for this place was not going there sooner. It was nice and cozy, had wifi, and the staff was not only friendly but greatly talented. Want some latte art of your favorite character from Sailor Moon? They’ll make it for you—and not just a quick, chibi sketch—they’ll spend the time to recreate the character just how the manga artist draws them, with incredible attention to detail that you didn’t know was possible for latte art. As a hobbyist artist, I can’t help but admire it. 

best cafés in Tokyo: reissue latter art

We got a BLT sandwich, which succeeded my expectations for a small, local café. They also had some creative latte options to choose from for your art, such as vanilla or caramel. The only downside was the price—at ¥1,100 for the latte art it was quite a splurge, but I’ll happily pay that much for that amount of talent.

The Deets

Address: Shibuya, Jingumae, 3-25-7 Tanji Bldg. 2F
Tel: 03-5785-3144
Open: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Price: Starting at ¥750 for food, ¥500 for desserts, ¥1,100 for a latte with art
Website: Reissue