Tokyo these days is a coffee mecca. By that I’m not talking about the canned variety from vending machines, Starbucks or the local chain Doutor. Independent, third wave coffee shops are literally sprouting in every corner of the metropolis for the past few years, and I, Rebecca Ilham (@always.caffeinated / @trav.e.logy), am having a great time getting caffeinated around town. The scene might be a little bit overwhelming for the uninitiated, so if you crave love coffee as much as I do, why not give these absolute favorites of mine a try?
1. Satei Hato
Satei Hato is an old resident of Tokyo and I love it for its maturity. It serves no-nonsense Japanese-styled coffee (black, very dark-roasted) that costs (brace yourself) 850 yen per cuppa, yet has had people coming from all over the world for a taste. I insist that you sit on the high stool by the counter to watch the barista brews your coffee using a nel drip – the most difficult hand brew method to master. Also prepare to be amazed when he gives you a once-over before pondering over the shelves of china as he decides which cup and saucer suits you best!
Satei Hato’s signature Earl Grey chiffon cake is super popular so don’t forget to try a slice. Fix your eyes on the baker as she expertly works on the frosting – it’s a work of art! Other foods available are sandwiches of various fillings perfect for lunch or light dinner. Let them know that you are unable to take meat and ask for a recommendation; my favorite sentence would be “niku ga taberarenai, osusume onegai shimasu.” If you can still stomach dessert, there’s cheesecake too!
Address: 1-15-19 Shibuya Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
How to get there: It’s a 2-minute walk from Shibuya Station.
Operating hours: 11.00 am – 11.30 pm
2. Fuglen Tokyo
Fuglen is originally from Oslo but this Tokyo branch perfectly fits into a quiet patch of Shibuya. Meaning “bird”, the shop serves Scandinavian-styled coffee and is also a Scandinavian vintage furniture shop, just like its flagship store in the Norwegian capital. A wide range of single origin coffees are served but I have a personal favorite – the Ethiopian Biftu Gudina. The beans are lightly roasted and developed into a citrusy and juicy cup of coffee when brewed, a heavenly drink that will convert you into a caffeine addict, if you aren’t one already!
Fuglen Tokyo serves Norwegian and French pastries to go with the drinks, so there are plenty of choices suitable for Muslims travelers (like that sinful, flaky plain croissant!). The shop is also a cocktail bar so alcohol is served, particularly in the evening. I strongly recommend a visit during the day; after grabbing a drink, do hang out on the bench in front of the premise like all the cool Tokyo-ites do.
Address: 1-16-11 Tomigaya Shibuya, Tokyo
How to get there: It’s a 6-minute walk from Yoyogikoen Station
Operating hours: Mon-Tue: 8.00 am – 10.00 pm; Wed-Thu: 8.00 am – 1.00 am; Fri: 8.00 am – 2.00 am, Sat: 9.00 am – 2.00 am; Sun: 9.00 am – 12.00 pm
3. Glitch Coffee Roaster
Credit: Hengtee Lim
Glitch is a newcomer, but the people behind it are well established in Tokyo’s coffee scene. Hence, you can tell how serious they are from the coffee they served – exclusively single origin only. The beans are roasted on-site (check out a huge Probat in a corner of the shop) and are very fresh. I like the Ethiopian Kochere, hand brewed using a Hario V60 drip. It’s a pleasantly floral cup: my taste buds are bombarded with explosions of jasmine, with a strong hint of peaches! It is hard to believe that it’s coffee!
Credit: Hengtee Lim
Glitch offers muffins and cookies for snacking; while coffee beans are available for sale. Seats are aplenty, so perch yourself on the high stool facing the street, and savor your drink!
Address: 1F 3-16 Kanda-Nishikicho Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
How to get there: It’s a 2-minute walk from Jinbocho Station Exit 9
Operating hours: Mon-Fri 7.30 am – 8.00 pm, Sat-Sun 9.00 am – 7.00 pm (Closed on holidays)
4. Blue Bottle Coffee
I have to admit that Blue Bottle’s coffee might not be the best in town, but it’s still a worthy reason to venture to the east side of Sumida River for. The shop serves the same menu as its flagship store in California, including the unique New Orleans Iced Coffee. A concoction of espresso shot, steamed milk and sugar cane syrup chilled overnight, it sounds like an absolute delight, isn’t it? Other notable drink is their single origin iced coffee – I order the Ethiopian variety and it has such a clean, fruity taste!
Blue Bottle also serves cookies (I love the double chocolate chip one!) and pastries. Seats are limited so I recommend to get everything to-go and head to Kiyosumi public park for a little picnic. By the way, I should warn you that the line at Blue Bottle might be a bit longer than at your average coffee shop. Be patient, and the friendly staffs will attend to you shortly.
Address: 1-4-8 Hirano Koto-ku, Tokyo
How to get there: 5-minute walk from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa station
Operating hours: Daily: 8.00 am – 7.00 pm
5. Sarutahiko Coffee
Credit: Khamis Hammoudeh on Flickr
Sarutahiko’s trademark is its warm customer service! Still, its pride is the coffee – I definitely recommend the single origin collection known as the “Jedi.” A cup of latte made from the Jedi’s Ethiopian beans is particularly sublime. The force is indeed strong with this one!
Sarutahiko serves drinks only, and its small shop in Ebisu has limited seats (count yourself very very lucky if you managed to score one). We insist that you order to go, and keep the exquisite geisha-motive paper cup as a souvenir! If you can’t get enough of Sarutahiko’s coffee, a variety of whole beans are available for purchase. Take some home for the loved (left behind) ones.
Credit: Spoon & Tamago
Address: 1-6-6 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
How to get there: It’s a 2-minute walk from Ebisu Station East Exit
Operating hours: Mon-Fri: 8.00 am – 12.30 am; Sat-Sun & Holidays: 10.00 am – 12.30 am
6. Lattest Omotesando Espresso Bar
Do not be discouraged at the word bar – the only shot they serve here is the espresso kind! Lattest, an industrial minimalist coffee shop just off the busy street of Omotesando is helmed a group of capable female-only barista. Their best offers are café latte and cappuccino, with beautiful latte art to boot!
I love Lattest’s huge cup of latte, but I’m conventional. If you’re more adventurous, then I totally recommend their seasonal lattes. There are yuzu latte in spring and coconut latte in summer, but do follow their social media accounts for the latest menu updates. Your taste buds would appreciate the change, I think!
Lattest also serves cakes and pastries – I like their walnut brownie but other offerings look just equally delectable. Order a plate to go with your coffee, and hang out to rest your tired feet from all the walking you’ve done for the day!
Address: 3-5-2, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
How to get there: It’s a 5-minute walk from Omotesando Station A2 Exit
Operating hours: Mon-Sun: 10.00 am – 7.00 pm
7. ARiSE Coffee Roaster
Credit: Hengtee Lim
Blue Bottle Coffee isn’t the only one offering caffeine in Kiyosumi Shirakawa. Before the foreign invasion, ARiSE had first laid claim to the area from a miniscule, eccentrically cluttered corner shop very near to the new resident. But do not be deceived by its size (or clutter, if you must) – AriSE is set to sway the locals’ fascination with Japanese-styled dark-roasted coffee by offering lighter roasted single origin beans!
Credit: Hengtee Lim
To find out, why not head down there and judge for yourself whether ARiSE is quite on track in its quest? Pair your coffee with a handmade bread or one of the baked goods – stocked daily from Kotoripan while you’re there. I won’t surprised if you’re converted; just don’t say I didn’t warn ya!
#HHWT Tip: If ARiSE left you wanting more, its sister shop, ARiSE Coffee Entangle is just nearby at 3-1-3 Koto, Kiyosumi, Tokyo!
Address: 1-13-8, Koto, Hirano, Tokyo
How to get there: It’s a 5-minute walk from Kiyosumi Shirakawa Station
Operating hours: Tue-Sun 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
8. About Life Coffee Roaster
Credit: Dom Sharman
Speaking about being unconventional, this coffee shop gets full points for just literally being a hole in the wall. Located in Dogenzaka, an area more famous for its night life than (good) coffee, About Life Coffee Roaster – a standing-only coffee kiosk – seeks to serve both great espresso-based drink and filter coffee to the discerning public.
About Life’s menu is split into three: white (W), black (B) and filter (F), all of them brewed from beans roasted by either Switch Coffee, Ammameria Espresso or Onibus Coffee – each one with its own unique taste profile and personality.
That does sound a bit overwhelming isn’t it? Don’t be.
The staffs, headed by Sakao Atsushi-san, a barista trained in Melbourne and Sydney, are always willing to lend you a hand. Who knows, you might discover a new favorite! If you’re looking for something light to snack on, About Life offers a well-curated, albeit limited, selection of baked goods, like this fig slice. I’m hungry just by looking at the picture!
Credit: Dom Sharman
But before you leave with your cuppa (I understand that space is scarce over there), don’t pass the chance to take photos of yourself sipping coffee on the bench in front of the shop. Or with the bicycle on the wall.
Address: 1-19-8, Dogenzaka, Shibuya, Tokyo
How to get there: It’s a 8-minute walk from Shibuya Station South Exit
Operating hours: Mon-Sun 8.30 am – 8.30 pm
So there you are – some interesting coffee shops that would take care of your caffeine addiction in Tokyo. Don’t be too rigid with these, though. I definitely insist that you should just walk into any shops that caught your fancy, and discover your own favorites!