Sunday, February 4, 2018

Amazing Cafes of Tokyo

A Café guide for Tokyo has been a long time coming on this blog. To think that I’ve been to Tokyo over a dozen times and never bothered to assemble a café guide is a bit of a shame. Perhaps it’s because Tokyo has always been too big and too spread out and I always have too much to do and too many people to see each trip to be able to compile a guide. That is why I did some in depth research and made a concentrated effort to see as many cafes as possible in this city.

By my own criteria, I have separated them into categories and ranked them in ordered of personal preference. Ii is notable that, on this trip, there is no café I visited more than once. This is regrettable. I strongly believe in experiencing a place multiple times to get a true sense of it, and I believe in having a special devotion to one café in each city I frequent, hence my go-to café posts:

However my schedule did not allow for multiple visits, nor did I find a special attraction to any one particular cafes. There were ones I liked but they were too busy, too small, too far, or had some other barriers that made me hesitate to return. One day, I will find that special café in Tokyo that will become a place of my own.

Third Wave
These are the coffee shops that showed up once coffee got cool. They didn’t exist when I lived in Japan but blew up all over the city once cafes became the new place-to-be. They are all quite different from each other. Some serve alcohol, some have full menus of food. Some are tiny, some are huge, some are chains, and some are architectural marvels. 

My milky latte was among the best I had in Tokyo. This mid-century Scandinavian café really sets the bar high, and is a favorite among locals, expats, and tourists alike.

The caramel Lavender latte was in season when I visited this sparse industrial place.

Brooklyn Parlor
This place is booming and thumping every night of the week. This trendy restaurant-café-bar-bookstore is hyped and worth a visit

Streamer Coffee
This local chain features interesting concoctions like the white mango latte (seasonal). I visited their Shibuya shop, which is located in a shipping container turned on its head.

The Roastery
This hip café with a global feel located on the main shopping drag in Shinuya.

 Monkey Café
This Daikanyama café-cum-art-gallery is famous for its unusual architecture. I ordered the black honey green tea latte which was splendid.

These were the cafes that existed before coffee was a thing in Japan. To me, these places are quintessentially Tokyo for reasons that are unique to each store. They’ve been in the city a long time and are not going anywhere. 

 Aoyama Flower Market 
This place usually has a line down the street within minutes after opening. This smart café in the back of a florist shop provides a green ambiance that acts as a sanctuary in Tokyo’s concrete spread.

February Café
An old school establishment right off of kitchen street in Ueno that provides comfort and quality.

Wired Tokyo 1999
A café on the top floor of Tsutaya Books in Shibuya. The windowless room provides yet another escape from the city, where time seems to stand sill amidst an array of art magazine. I ordered the white chocolate matcha latte.

This is a list of coffee shops and roasters that have moved to Tokyo from other countries. They have retained some of their foreignness, but also have adapted to the Japanese market. They came in at the peak of the fad and will likely stick around for a while, competing with the likes of Starbucks and others.

Blue Bottle
My favorite Los Angeles export has made it to Tokyo and their flagship café in Shinjuku station is a popular meeting place.

My second favorite LA export features Japanese-original creations like the chocolate Valencia latte.

This popular café from Australia also had local creations such as the matcha latte with jelly.

An architecturally stunning café in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood.

I classify these as small, one-off cafes with a lot of hype and almost no seats. Though they are all new, they have a grungy been-here-forever atmosphere. Ironically, these are the places most likely to not be there when I return to Japan. These small shops are easy to open and will close once the owners get bored and decide to take on a new venture.

Popular among expat in the business district of Meguro, this café is frequent features is coffee magazine.

With seating for only two people, Switch was a tiny wonder.

Turret Café
Names after the Turrets, the automized carts that are used to move around fish at Tsukuji fish market, this sweet little café featured some truly unique creations such as the caramel sea salt latte mocha and natural mint latte.

 Little Nap
This teeny café off the main drag in Harajuku is packed with local hipsters all day. I enjoyed their butter caramel sandwich with my latte.

Perch Coffee by Woodbury
With seating for one, this tiny café is just the latest example of small independent cafes cropping up through the city. I ordered a Valencia latte, which had the flavor of orange and cinnamon.

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