Tokyo has never been at a loss for cafes, but it’s only in recent years that there’s been a real boom in quality and craftsmanship. For every Starbucks and chain store, there are an increasing number of independent coffee shops, kiosks, and roaster/retailers brewing some seriously good cups in some seriously appealing environments.
While the following is by no means an exhaustive list, below are seven of the best coffee shops in the Tokyo area that are helping build the city’s reputation for coffee quality. For an inside look at all the shops on the list, check out this video (warning: don’t be afraid to feel the groove):
Omotesando Koffee, Omotesando
Located down an unassuming street in a quiet residential pocket of an otherwise trendy neighborhood, Omotesando Koffee is one man, a counter, and a coffee machine in a wooden cube frame, built into the first floor of a small two-story house. The humble garden outside is most beautiful over Spring and Autumn, but regardless of when you go, you’ll likely never experience a coffee shop with such natural elegance. And in case you were wondering, the K is nod to its kiosk-inspired setup.
Paddler’s Coffee, Sangubashi
Paddler’s Coffee is the go-to place for two things: Japanese hipster facial hair, and Stumptown coffee. Only drip coffee is offered, but there’s still a lot of warmth and flavor to be enjoyed. Pick up a snack from the bakery next door to complement your coffee while you count the varieties of moustache.
Hailing from Oslo, Norway, the Tokyo branch of Fuglen (translated as “the bird”) radiates vintage-cool and European coffee expertise. By day it’s all about coffee, regular cuppings, and barista training. At night, expect specialty cocktails, craft beer, and a variety of seasonal events. Nata de Cristiano’s is just a short walk away, and their egg tarts go great with a latte.
Sarutahiko Coffee, Ebisu
Great coffee meets great service at Sarutahiko Coffee, just a few minutes walk from Ebisu Station. Staff members regularly hang out near the sidewalk, happy to offer coffee advice, help you find a seat, or just chat. Be sure to try a “Jedi” label coffee – it’s the indicator of their best new roast. Sarutahiko now offers a lunch set, but for something sweeter, Ouca Ice-Cream next door offers a range of unique Japanese flavors that go great before, after, or even during a hot coffee.
Streamer Coffee, Harajuku
This is arguably the most well-known spot in Tokyo among coffee afficionados. Streamer Coffee aims to provide the best latte art in Tokyo – no surprise, given that the place is run by Hiroshi Sawada, the 2008 Seattle Latte Art Champion. Though it’s a fool that orders anything other than a cafe latte on a first visit, the iced revolver latte (a Shibuya branch exclusive), made up of six ristretto shots and served in a mason jar, is one of the best iced lattes in town. The main Streamer cafe is located in Shibuya, but the Harajuku container set-up was just too cool to pass up for this video.
The Cream of the Crop Coffee, Shibuya
Based in Shibuya’s Hikarie tower, The Cream of the Crop serves up an especially good cup of iced coffee. It’s also an ideal refuge for anyone seeking to escape the busy Shibuya scramble crossing, but who also wants a better option than the crowded Starbucks/Tsutaya. If you like the coffee here, the main roasting factory in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa (pictured) is also worth a visit.
The Roastery, Jingumae
Fans of Nozy Coffee can now get their fix while traipsing through the fashion center of Tokyo at The Roastery, conveniently located on Cat Street. The beans change frequently, and the staff happily answer any questions regarding the daily brews. They’ve even started selling Cronut-esque “New York Rings,” among a variety of other pastries.