Tokyo is an exciting, relentless metropolis that can leave travelers exhausted after battling bustling streets and trains that sometimes double as sardine cans. Take much-needed breathers and recharge with some caffeine in the city’s system of side street roasteries and cafes. Learn about nine of my favorite places to drink good coffee in Tokyo, with considerable help from Tokyo native (and culinary expert) Tomo Kurokawa, based on my trip from October 30 – November 9, 2016.
Numbers on the map correspond to listings below and appear in alphabetical order instead of order of preference.
4/4 Seasons Coffee, aka All Seasons Coffee, has been a Shinjuku coffee destination since 2015. The small corner cafe features floral flourishes, including potted plants and succulents on wood counters and tables, and for fall, flowers and strings of paper flags. Their coffee program touts a two-group Synesso espresso machine, pourover bar, house roasted coffee, and guest beans from roasters like Berlin’s Five Elephants. I enjoyed a cup of Kenya pourover, which is available hot or iced. House-made fruit syrup for fall was crafted with apple and cinnamon, available either hot or in cold soda.
MUST ORDER: Fruit Syrup, Pourover Coffee
About Life Coffee Brewers is a dark grey and cinder block stall that’s been on a Shibuya side street since 2014. The small space contains a tiny counter, tile walls, and an interior that’s just big enough for one guest to turn around. They brew black, white and filter coffees using a two-group La Marzocco espresso machine,pourover bar, and beans from Switch, Onimbus, and Amameria. Every drink comes in paper cups except for espresso and Americano. My drip coffee showcased a fully-washed Honduras El Milagrito coffee from Santa Barbara that was tasty and smooth, and a bit tangy.
MUST ORDER: Drip Coffee
Katsuyuki “Katsu” Tanaka founded Bear Pond Espresso in the sleepy neighborhood of Shimokitazawa amidst fashionable clothing stores. The glass-fronted space features a peaked roof with exposed beams strung with lights, bench seating, and a reclaimed wood counter. A two-group white La Marzocco espresso machine reads “Love Me” in red drip paint. My flavorful Ginger Bear Cappuccino incorporated ginger, Flower Child espresso, steamed milk, and “coffee dust.”
MUST ORDER: Ginger Bear Cappuccino
“Who’s back? Camelback!” L.A. sports personality Petros Papadakis always uses that line when describing the spring training home for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona’s Camelback Ranch. A fun time, to be sure, but give me Camelback Sandwich & Espresso instead. This coffee bar has been open since 2014 on a Yoyogi side street. The tiny glass-fronted cafe has only two wood benches, a brick fronted bar, and camel and desert-themed watercolors. Hayato Naruse (sandwiches) and Kei Suzuki (coffee) are childhood friends from Tokyo. Sandwiches are served on three different baguettes from three different bakeries. I was blown away by the sandwich with a soft omelet slab on a supple baguette with butter and mustard. Simple perfection. Their camel black, their take on an Americano, was also impeccable.
MUST ORDER: Camel Black, Egg Omelet Sandwich
Eiji Dobashi has run Counterpart Coffee Gallery in Shinjuku since 2015. He’s connected to Glitch Coffee and roasts beans at Jinbocho Station. This glass-fronted cafe occupies three stories, including a ground floor counter with street views and a painting of a horse running through a ring of coffee plants with ripe cherries. Counterpart’s bar touts a two-group La Marzocco espresso machine and glass cones for pourover coffee. I enjoyed my cup of Ethiopia Gelena Abaya Washed.
MUST ORDER: Pourover Coffee