I visited Tokyo – Japan last year in September and stayed at my sister‘s apartment. Tokyo is an interesting city, I feel like sometime you live in a different world, a very unique culture. A big city but still keep the local wisdom deep inside. Japan to me is the country of perfection and patience. One thing that I want to experience when I knew I’m going to visit Japan is exploring the coffee shop, especially the Japanese-style coffee house or tea house or they call it Kissaten.
A kissaten (喫茶店 ?), literally a “tea-drinking shop,” is a Japanese-style tearoom that is also a coffee shop. Kissaten are particularly popular among students and business people, particularly salarymen, for breakfast. (Wikipedia)
I did a little research about some places to go in Tokyo and found an interesting history also about coffee legend named Katsuji Daibo who own a his old kissaten for 38 years until December 31, 2013 when he closed his door for good. His Daibo Coffee used to serve customer at Omotesando area. There is a movie called “A Film About Coffee” that dedicated for him, you can watch it here. There is a beautiful article also that feature about his profile here: http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2013/daibo/.
Even though there is no more Daibo, the coffee culture in Japan is still there and it such a “religious experience” for every coffee lover to go into one coffee house to another in Japan. I feel like it’s kind of a “pilgrimage” for coffee. Here are some of the coffee houses that I visited when I was in Tokyo. I would love to come back again one day to Japan to explore more kissaten in other cities.
1. Slow Jet Coffee | 1 Chome-29-12 Senjuazuma, Adachi, Tokyo
This is my sister’s favorite coffeehouse where she usually go for a coffee or to do some work. Its close to where she live and we can walk or take the metro. Slow Jet has 3 location in Kodai-Ji, In the Zoo, and Adachi. We visit the one in Adachi. You can get their daily blend brew coffee for a quick one or the hand drip brew coffee where they usually use Kalita Wave for the pour over coffee.
2. Kayaba Coffee – Yanaka | Japan, 〒110-0001 Tokyo, Taito, 谷中６丁目１−２９
Yanaka is one of my favorite neighborhood in Tokyo. A traditional and old part of the city, there are also a lot of houses that safe from the Earthquake back then in this area. It’s a nice feeling to just walking around the area and then stop by at Kayaba Coffee for a hot of cold coffee. Kayaba coffee build in this old house that has been there for 70 years. Their green tea latte selection is also delicious!
3. Blue Bottle Coffee – Aoyama | 3-13-14 Minamiaoyama Minato-ku, Tokyo
I’ve visited Blue Bottle in San Fransisco and LA and yes its come from the U.S and one of the major player in third wave coffee. They open their first branch outside the U.S and pick Tokyo as their destination. Apparently, Blue Bottle’s Founder (James Freeman) really admire Daibo and love the culture of coffee in Japan. The modern look of Blue Bottle in Japan is not much different from where their cafe in the U.S.
4. Chatei Hatou | 1 Chome-15-19 Shibuya, 渋谷区 Tokyo 150-0002
Chatei Hatou is a very interesting Kissaten with an classic interior and ceramic cup that they use to serve the coffee. It take a long time to wait for your one small cup of coffee and it also cost a lot, like 800-1000 yean for a cup of coffee but it definitely worth to try. An ultimate Kissaten experience in Tokyo.
5. Yanaka Coffee – Shimokitazawa | 北沢2-33-6 Setagaya, 東京都 〒155-0031
Yanaka Coffee has some branches in Tokyo and the one in Shimokitazawa is one if it. I love the neighborhood, very hipster and indie part of Tokyo.
6. Bear Pond Espresso – Shimokitazawa | 2-36-12 Kitazawa Setagaya-ku Tokyo
Bear Pond in Shimokitazawa is a cute little cafe and the owner, Katsuyuki “Katsu” Tanaka has been around the U.S previously to learn all about coffee. He got the training also from Counter Culture Coffee.
7. The Roastery by Nozy Coffee | 〒150-0001 Tokyo, Shibuya, 神宮前5−17−13
The Roastery located near the Harajuku area and the roast the coffee in their cafe. They have various selection of coffee beans and the ambient inside the cafe is really nice.
8. Tsuta Coffee | 南青山5-11-20 Minato, 東京都 〒107-0062
Tsuta is one of the old kissaten and has a beautiful garden inside. When me and Karin finally find this place, its dark in the night and they were close! Its a bad timing, but we took this photo of their mailbox and hope one day we’ll get here.
9. Lion Cafe – Shibuya | 〒150-0043 Tokyo, 渋谷区Dogenzaka, 2−19−13
Knowing that Tsuta was close, then we move to the closest kissaten that we found from our little research on the internet; Lion Cafe. It’s a jazz kissaten and when we get in, it’s the whole different world from outside the street. It’s very quiet, we cannot even talk here, no photography allowed, and we sit in the front row where its only 2 other people in the room. There will be the waitress who change the music from the vinyl record in front of the chairs that look like we sat in a train. I feel like being in one of Haruki Murakami novel with his dark, silent, misterious character on the novel.
10. Yanaka Coffee – Sendagi | 千駄木2-31-3 Bunkyo, 東京都 〒113-0022
This coffee shop located near Tokyo University and I might say its my kind of coffeeshop (not the Kissaten one) that I will go everyday. A very fair price and a good quality of coffee! They have various cafe all over Tokyo.
11. Ammonite Coffee Market | 本郷7-2-6 (1F) Bunkyō, Tōkyō 113-0033
Ammonite Coffee located near Tokyo University as well and they have a coffee tester in front of the order table where we can taste the speciality coffee we want to choose. As you can see below, they use V60 pour over method to brew their coffee.
12. Cafe De L’ambre – Ginza | 〒104-0061 Tokyo, 中央区Ginza, ８−１０−１５
Created in 1948, De L’ambre is my favorite kissaten so far! A very unique and classic ambient and they have the coffee since ages ago, the owner started aging the coffe beans since 40 years ago. I sit in the old wooden counter seating near the barista and watch a very traditional way to make my single cup of coffee. Very patience and slow hand drip brew. The owner, Segikuchi Ichiro is over one hundred year old. He started as an engineer and then found his passion on coffee, started by making his friend at office coffee and they said its one of the best coffee they’ve ever drink. By starting L’ambre, he even create his own grinder, roasting machine, kettle, and other. He is very perfectionist to keep improving the quality of his coffee and instead of buying the machine, he decided to create one that he want. You can read the interview with Mr. Segikuchi Ichiro here: https://tokyocoffee.org/2016/05/29/cafe-de-lambre/
After visited all those coffee houses and kissaten, it really inspire me on how Japanese is very passionate and put a very high perfection in a cup of coffee. It is sad that my own land, Indonesia, despite having a lot of good speciality coffee beans, still the majority of Indonesians did not drink a good quality of coffee. Instead, we consume a lot of instant coffee. We need a lot more quality coffee houses in Indonesia so that it can bring the “coffee culture” in Indonesia. Wouldn’t it be nice when finally the majority of Indonesians aware and know where the coffee comes from, enjoy the process of making it from beans into an excellent cup of coffee, then drink it, in our own country.
My interest to learn more about coffee growing since I live in Boston and currently, the dream to create a coffee house in Indonesia is alive again. This trip is giving me an insight on how important to serve an excellent but humble cup of coffee and its need patience with the deep curiosity to keep learning from everywhere and everyone.