21.02.2019

An expert’s guide to Tokyo’s sprawling coffee scene

The coffee scene in Japan's capital city is quite a treat.

Koffee Mameya

Watch your head as you enter the new Koffee Mameya, a boutique bean shop, set up by Tokyo cult favourite Omotesando Koffee. The owner, Kunitomo-san along with head barista Miki-san, have travelled the world to assemble a comprehensive lineup of beans for you to try and purchase. They take Japanese omotenashi (hospitality) to new heights by getting to know your preferences by even keeping a medical like record of your purchase history. Come back at 6pm on weeknights for free workshops and coffee talk, too.

4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tokyo.

Kabuki

To say Kabuki is hidden is an understatement, there’s practically no signage at all to let you know you’re in the right place. But once inside this delightfully modern kissaten, you’ll find the cafe has twin specialities: delicious in house roasted nel-drip coffee and home-made dark chocolate. It holds less than 10 customers at any time, making it a serenely intimate experience with a focus is on quality, not speed. The ambience is quite unlike anywhere else; backdropped by natural light, guests are able to witness up close the artfulness behind the coffee brewing process. A truly unmissable sensory experience.

1-15-7 Torigoe, Taito-ku, Tokyo.

Little Darling Coffee Roasters 

One of the newest coffee roasters in town, Little Darling’s branding and space is making other cafes look a tad shabby. Speciality coffee is roasted on a Probat by Naoya Akagawa, one of Tokyo’s most loved coffee icons. A stone’s throw from The National Art Centre, Little Darling is part of a new complex, which sits by a vast lawn connecting a greenhouse and share office. The pop art, greenery and slick interior makes for the perfect backdrop for an instagram post.

1-12-32 Minamiaoyama, Minato-ku. Tokyo.

Chatei Hato

Time over convenience, the charcoal-roasted coffee at this adored kissaten is meticulously hand dripped, and watching the process is nothing short of a meditative experience. Sit at the long wooden counter while the masters are at work and pair your coffee up with homemade chiffon cake, elegantly and generously iced. The majestic ikebana flower display reaching up to the ceiling changes every week. Up for something new? Order the aged beans and watch a beautiful 13 minute drip take place before your eyes.

1-15-19 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku. Tokyo.

Lawn

Established in 1954, Lawn moved once in 1968, and hasn’t changed since. The stone entrance and authentic retro interior make for an architectural delight, where inside we’d advise paring your drip coffee up with their famous omelette “tamago” sandwich. This cosy space naturally acts as the perfect backdrop for fashion shoots, and rumour has it that the Monocle magazine team rented it out to hold their Christmas party a few years back. What’s more, Australian trad-jazz band The Lagerphones have held intimate, but wild parties there on a number of occasions.

1-2 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo.

Lion

Nestled in the love hotel district, Lion is a classical music cafe; a secret gem, where talking is forbidden and all seats face an incredible bespoke sound system. More than 10,000 vinyl records and CDs line the front, and staff introduce each song over the microphone paying homage to the forgotten sounds. The coffee is nothing much to write home about, but the atmosphere lifts this cafe into one of the most memorable experiences in the world. The perfect place for reflection, I insist that all of my friends make Lion their last stop on their visit.

2-19-13, Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku. Tokyo.

By coffee journalist Vaughan

Vaughan is a music promoter and cafe denizen who moved from Melbourne to Tokyo over 10 years ago. He writes about Tokyo’s coffee culture at Good Coffee (instagram @goodcoffeeme/ @vja), lectures on fashion at Bunka Fashion College, and tours bands around the country in his free time, you can follow his exploits on Facebook.