tokyo quality coffee

Tokyo has plenty of coffee options, from the latte choices at Starbucks to the canned beverages in the roadside vending machines, but it’s a lot harder to find the quality of coffee that comes from an artisanal cafe, roaster and barista.

mapp : : tokyo has compiled a list of ten of the best cafes around Tokyo.

Bear Pond Espresso (kitazawa, also shibuya)

bear pond espresso

Located in Tokyo’s funky Shimokitazawa neighborhood, north of the station, Bear Pond is a mecca for lovers of good espresso. It’s a rough hewn, hole in the wall kind of space, there are some house rules about photography and children and the New York trained owner has been known to serve up some of that city’s attitude with his meticulously prepared cups of coffee. While the thick, chocolaty espresso is renowned, drinks like the Gibraltar and French Press are also delicious.

2-36-12 Kitazawa Setagaya-ku Tokyo Japan 155-0031

Café Kitsuné (aoyama)

kitsune cafe

This cafe is contained within the Kitsuné boutique is one for the fashionistas. Inside there are but a few stools along a counter; outside there’s a compact laid-back terrace for warmer days. The coffee is smooth and creamy, as is to be expected, as the cafe was developed and baristas trained under the tutelage of Eiichi Kunitomo of Omotesando Koffee (see below). The cafe/store is a beautiful modern/traditional space composed of hand crafted timber surfaces and details and understated wallpaper.

3-15-3 minami-aoyama Tokyo Japan 

Coffee Amp. (koenji)

coffee amp.

Another grungy space in another funky suburb, coffee amp. is another excellent cafe and roaster. Coffee amp. is situated on a shotengai shopping mall that runs between Koenji sation and Shin Koenji subway station. A coffee roaster features prominently in the space along with a blackboard map of the world’s coffee regions, a display of international beans and those evocative coffee sacks; there’s not much in the way of seating – a bit of a refrain in the city’s better cafes – but there’s a single table out front that gets great afternoon sun, the owners are friendly and they make some intense, nutty and smooth espresso drinks, while the latte drinks are topped with creamy microfoam.

2-20-13 Koenji Minami Koa Building 102, Suginami-ki, Tokyo Japan 166-0033

Gontran Cherrier (shibuya, also shinjuku)

gontran cherrier

On a busy corner in the heart of Shibuya is a slice of Paris. Gontran Cherrier is a Parisian based boulanger who has brought his exquisite croissants and breads to Tokyo. His Shibuya shop has two levels: boulangerie and quick cafe on the ground level and a bread and wine cafeteria upstairs. The coffee options downstairs are unremarkable, but they serve a nice demi tasse cafe au lait upstairs as well as French wines and authentic dishes and desserts. While the coffee here is probably the weakest in our line-up, the pastries more than make up for it.

BC Salon 1-14-11 Shibuya, Tokyo Japan 150-0002

Lattest (omotesando)

lattest

In the backstreets of the chic Omotesando neighborhood, Lattest is aptly designed, its industrial chic bunker aesthetic of concrete, rough hewn timber and raw metal a perfect backdrop for its hip customers. An all girl barista crew operates the espresso machine and produce rich, smooth double and triple shot coffees. Donuts round out the menu. Lattest is in a bit of a cafe enclave, but distinguishes itself with more than its coffee; the cafe also functions as a funky cultural center of sorts, occasionally doubling as an event space, gallery or pop-up store.

3-5-2, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Japan 150-0001

Little Nap Coffee Stand (yoyogi)

little nap coffee stand

On the fringes of the sprawling Yoyogi Park, this quirky hole in the wall cafe is the kind of place you want in your neighborhood. Daisuke Hamada runs a one man operation from behind his synesso espresso machine, expressing nicely balanced coffees. Drip coffee is also on the menu along with some juices and a small selection of muffins and biscuits. The cafe has a few seats along a narrow window counter, but there are some interestingly engineered outdoor tables outside, flanking the small park opposite the cafe.

5-65-4 Yoyogi, Shibuya, Tokyo Japan 151-0053

Omotesando Koffee (omotesando)

omotesando koffee

This is another one man operation in the back streets of Omotesando. Situated in the unlikeliest of settings, Omotesando Koffee offers a unique cafe experience, mixing refined espresso drinks, created by owner-barista Eiichi Kunitomo using a La Cimbali machine, and a traditional Japanese aesthetic – a single tatami room opening onto a small enclosed pebbled courtyard, practically no furniture, a menu consisting of a single morsel sized sweet – that provides a zen-like coffee experience. Perfect on a warm sunny day.

4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya Tokyo, Japan 150-0001

Sarugaku (daikanyama)

sarugaku cafe

This is one of the most unusual cafe experiences in Tokyo, which in itself takes some doing. Located in a Daikanyama basement, with no signage, the cafe is a small, dark, wooden den with pokey alcoves and tiny, spotlit tables. The proprietor/coffee master presides over proceedings like an alchemist. His tools of trade, a saucepan and pot, some enamel mugs, ceramic cups and thin wire frame stands in which sit cloth filters and white porcelain cups and saucers. The coffee comes in mild, medium and bitter blends and milk or sugar is forbidden. It could all be a bit too hard and not worth your patronage, but the resulting 600 yen drink is clean and smooth, and the experience memorable.

B1F Daikanyama Post Office Bldg, 23-3 Sarugakucho, Shibuya Tokyo

Sarutahiko Coffee (ebisu)

sarutahiko coffee

This tiny cafe not far from Ebisu station has a quaint, home-made feel to it, with its rough wooden fittings and decorative knick-knacks. Even the slow drip coffee maker on the counter has that home brew/science project look to it. The coffee, however, is very professionally made and presented: the espresso coffees are aromatic, the latte drinks smooth and creamy and the drip coffee – a specialty of this cafe – has finesse. Owner Tomoyuki Ootsuka and his helpers round out the experience with their friendly rapport with customers.

1-6-6 Ebisu Shibuya Tokyo

Yanaka Coffee (2k540 AKI-OKA Artisan market branch, okachimachi & elsewhere)

yanaka coffee

Yanaka Coffee is a small chain of coffee roasters and sellers, who serve a blend coffee style popular with many Japanese. Most of Yanaka Coffee’s 22 branches are small, local type cafes, their tables seating local shoppers or workers getting a coffee hit. They all have that welcoming coffee aroma – the main feature is the bins displaying various coffee beans for sale. The coffee, made with quality roasted house beans, is quite good and at 190 yen per cup is among the cheapest in Tokyo. The 2k540 AKI-OKA Artisan covered market (under the Yamanote tracks between Akihabara and Okachimachi) is also an interesting space to explore.

2k540 D Bldg Aki-Oka Artisan, 5-9-7 Taito-ku, Tokyo

Now you’ve got some places to fuel up, enjoy you explorations of Tokyo.

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