Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Aoyama Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle has arrived to Tokyo. The first shop, in Kiyosumi, is on the other side of the city for me. So, even though I live in Tokyo it is about an hour from where I live. Blue Bottle’s second shop has opened in Aoyama.

It’s a busy shop and not the best place to do writing or editing. Quite noisy in fact. I couldn’t hear the staff call out my name to get my coffee. Eventually seats opened up on the deck, where it was quiet and I could get some work done. There is a buzz in the restaurant. It seems that many of the customers, like myself, are first timers. Taking it all in, looking around, checking things out, lots of questions for the staff.

The staff helped me to select a Papau New Guinea single origin. She said it was “like peach”. The coffee, served in a glass mug, was fruity.

Blue Bottle is getting a lot of press in the media, which explains the big crowds. Not sure, but I guess this will die down at some point.

The Aoyama location is just off the main street where there are many brands like Issey Miyake and Prada. The shop is up the stairs on the second floor of a building that looks like it was an old apartment building. Don’t know why, but the shop doesn’t open up until 10 a.m. Frustrating for those of us who prefer to have coffee earlier in the day, but many coffee shops in Tokyo don’t open until 10 or even 11 a.m.

 

Blue Bottle Aoyama

Minato-ku, Minami-Aoyama 3-13-14

港区南青山3-13-14

bluebottlecoffee.com/cafes/aoyama

Kichijoji Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

Aihara-san of Light Up Coffee

At my local coffee shop, Cribe, in Kokubunji, I often meet coffee shop owners. The other day I met a very young Aihara-san whose shop, Light Up Coffee, is in Kichijoji. Light Up was on my my radar thanks to recommendations from Twitter friends. Arigato, Twitter!

Light Up Coffee is about a seven-minute walk from Kichijoji Station’s North Exit. Take a left out of the North Exit and walk straight. The street is filled with fun shops selling trinkets, antiques, clothes, and things you don’t need, but desire as they are “kawaii” (cute). Across the street is a park and this morning it is filled with nursery school kids laughing and crying. This is a residential neighborhood this far from the station.

Light Up Interior

Light Up Interior

From the back of the shop is the hum of the small coffee roaster. I walk to the back and find Aihara-san tending to the beans. He helps me choose from the day’s coffee and recommends Kenya Kariru. It has a soft acidity and is reminiscent of a strong-brewed tea. There are several Japanese magazines to peruse and even some English coffee books, including Blue Bottle’s gorgeous book.

The furnishings are simple. Two skinny wood counters with skinny chairs. There is a cool breeze as there is a back door that is opened.

Light Up Exterior

Light Up Exterior

Aihara-san brings me a second cup, also from Kenya, but a new bean called Tegu. He said the Kenya bean was changing. This was fruitier and hand hints of tomatoes. Different from the first. At Light Up one of the menu options is a flight of coffee, a great chance to taste different coffee next to each other.

Light Up Coffee is open seven days a week. On Tuesdays he has shorter hours.

Light Up Coffee

Musashino-shi, Kichijoji Honcho 4-13-15

0422-27-2094

www.lightupcoffee.com

Wednesday – Monday 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Tuesdays 12 noon – 5 p.m.

Kokubunji Cribe Coffee

Yoshida-san of Cribe

Yoshida-san of Cribe

Coffee is hot, hot, hot in Tokyo. San Francisco’s Blue Bottle recently opened in Kiyosumi Shirakawa and lines have been very long. Throughout the city it is becoming easier to find a great cup of coffee. I am thrilled as my own ‘hood, Kokubunji, has its first third-wave coffee shop, Cribe. The owner, Yoshida-san is super friendly and the coffee is the best I can find on this part of the Chuo line.

Cribe Interior

Cribe Interior

Cribe opens at 7:30 a.m. and is open until 9:00 p.m. There is beer for late night visitors. The shop is small and has some benches along the wall and a small seating area in the back of the shop. Yoshida-san is serving sandwiches and doughnuts from a local shop.

Cribe Exterior

Cribe Exterior

I asked him how he picked Kokubunji to open a coffee shop and he said that he went to university in the area. I am thrilled.

Betty

Betty

This is an original coffee drink called Betty. It is a generous pour of cold milk topped with espresso. Can you see Yoshida-san’s reflection on the espresso machine? Great smile. And his Betty puts a smile on my face. Cribe Coffee – worth the trip.

Cribe

Kokubunji-shi, Honcho 3-5-5

090-9150-9111

https://www.facebook.com/lifesizecribe

Open 7 days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Takashimaya Patissieria Sweets Counter

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

If you have a sweet tooth be sure to visit Shinjuku Takashimaya’s Patissieria in the depachika. The concept is brilliant, over a hundred signature sweets from patisseries throughout Tokyo all displayed together. Carefully peruse the sweets and upon selecting one, or two if you like, take a seat at the counter and order a coffee and enjoy.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Takashimaya Patissieria

Even on days when I don’t have time to sit down, I do try and glance through the display case as the offerings are constantly changing. As can be expected, aside from the classics, many are influenced by the seasonal ingredients.

Takashimaya Patissieria Mont Blanc

Takashimaya Patissieria

My view from the counter with a Mont Blanc. Shinjuku Takashimaya is located just outside of Shinjuku JR Station. Take the Shin-Minami-Guchi, New South Exit, take a left and you will walk into Takashimaya in one minute. Follow the escalators down to the basement.

Takashimaya Patissieria

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2, Shinjuku Takashimaya

Japanese Kissaten – Ginza Tsubakiya

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Some twenty years ago friends brought me to this coffee shop in Ginza. It was my first time in one of these classic kissaten 喫茶店 (coffee shop). I had no idea that such places existed. It felt as if we had stepped back in time. The coffee was (and still is) expensive, but one could order exquisite cakes or sandwiches, and sit there for as long as we wanted. Tsubakiya is an old-school kissaten in the heart of Ginza, perfect for some quiet solo time or for meeting friends.

Recently a friend was visiting from overseas and we decided to meet for coffee. Of course there are great spots in the city, like Omotesando Koffee or Turret Coffee, but not all are ideal for lingering over conversation. So I returned to Tsubakiya, and nothing seems to have changed.

Tsubakiya sits on the corner, just a block off of the main Chuo Dori. The coffee shop is on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building. The 3rd floor is non-smoking, which is good to know as some of these older shops can be filled with smokers. There is a stairwell that leads up to the shop from the street level. The dark interior is a nod to the early 20th century Taisho era (1912-1926). Waitresses are in black dresses with white aprons and completed with a frilly white cap. A cup of coffee starts at 1,000 JPY, and I believe refills are for about 300 JPY. The coffee is made with a siphon and the cup I had was very smooth. A great spot if you are looking for a quiet cup of coffee in Ginza. It opens at 10 a.m., another reason why we chose this spot as other coffee shops don’t open until 11 a.m.

Tsubakiya is part of Towa Foods and has a few shops throughout the city.

Ginza Tsubakiya

Chuo-ku, Ginza 7-7-11, Sugawara Denki Bldg. 2F and 3F

03-3572-4949

Monzennakacho Monz Cafe

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Monzennakacho is a very cool neighborhood that is close to the heart of Tokyo. Accessible via the Tozai or Oedo subway lines. Part of the area abuts the Sumidagawa River and there is a river that runs through it that offers boat rides under the cherry blossoms in spring.  I lived here for a few years and love this area very much. There are a few temples in the area including the Tomioka Hachimangu and Fukagawa Fudosan, as well as a big festival every three years in the summer. My favorite pickle restaurant in Tokyo, Kintame, has a shop just in front of the Fukagawa Fudosan.

A new addition to the area is Monz Cafe, hip cafe on the old street that leads from the Tozai station exit to the Fukagawa Fudosan temple. On this spring day the windows and doors are wide open. Two young girls are behind the counter. Inside is tight seating for 18. There is a small glass case with some baked goods like pound and chiffon cakes. The limited food menu includes panini and Eggs Benedict. My “flat white” is like a cappuccino, but with more milk. The coffee is rich, but not too bitter or dark. The cafe has a light and refreshing feel to it. A great spot to grab coffee with a friend, or perhaps a coffee after a pickle lunch at Kintame.

I asked one of the girls behind the counter what this was prior and she said it used to be an amazaké shop. She pointed to the space above the door and they have retained the old sign. A small gesture, but one that is perfect for this neighborhood, which still retains the feel of shitamachi, the heart of old Tokyo.

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Monz Cafe

Koto-ku, Tomioka 1-14-5

03-6873-0835

Monday – Friday 8:00-19:00

Weekends and holidays 9:00-18:00

One minute from Tozai exit #1.

Omotesando Koffee

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Omotesando Koffee, while known for its good coffee, it is perhaps more famous for its “ko-hi- kashi” or coffee sweet. Kunitomo-san at the shop said it is a baked purin, which is like a creme custard, but that flour is added to the mixture. It has a crispy crust and is soft and eggy inside. Dangerous if you come hungry as one could easily go through several of these.

The quality of the coffee is excellent here. My girlfriend’s latte had a nice proportion of milk to espresso. I indulged and got a Bailey’s espresso. The aroma of the Baileys reminded the both of us of our days at Midwestern liberal arts colleges. Amazing how just smelling the Baileys brought back memories from 25 years ago. Next time I will get the Baileys with some milk.

The shop card are coffee filters that are also used for serving the ko-hi- kashi. Brilliant. I teased him asking if I could recycle these at home as coffee filters and he said we could.

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Here is the exterior of the shop. It is on the first floor of a residential home, which could explain why the shop does not open until 10 a.m. We got there a bit early and it was fun to watch the rituals of preparing the small garden in front of the shop before opening the gate.

The handsome Kunitomo-san in a light blue lab coat is very friendly. We spoke only in Japanese but on our way out some Americans came in and we could hear him speaking English. It was raining this morning so we stood inside and had our coffee tachi-nomi style. If the weather is good there are two small benches in the narrow garden in front of the shop. But, this is not a place you want to linger for long at.

Omotesando Koffee

Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-15-3

03-5413-9422

10:00 – 19:00 daily

* Omotesando Koffee is right behind Maisen tonkatsu. The perfect spot for a coffee after tonkatsu.

Viron Boulangerie

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My go-to lunch when on a run is a sandwich from Viron. Excellent baguettes with a chewy crumb that can stand up to the crispy exterior. The sandwiches are classic French-style including pate de campagne, rillettes, and jambon.

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The large window display case in the front of the store has a dizzying array of sandwiches and pastries.

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The breads are authentic and take me back to France. The baguette is my favorite, but also excellent kouign amann and fougasse as well. Of course, much more than you would pay for in France, but it is a treat to have such great bread in Tokyo. Flour is brought in from France to make Viron’s signature retrador baguette and other breads. There is also a brasserie at each location. Viron has a branch at Marunouchi in front of Tokyo Station and in Shibuya. Now, if they would only expand and open more branches around the city.

Viron Marunouchi

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-7-3, TOKIA Bldg. 1st floor

03-5220-7289

Viron Shibuya

Shibuya-ku, Udagawacho 33-8, Tsukuda Bldg.

03-5458-1770

Could This Be Tokyo’s Best Coffee? Chatei Hatou

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One of the great pleasures of giving food tours in Tokyo is meeting passionate people who introduce me to spots in Tokyo. The metropolis is so big that it is impossible to make it to every shop that you want to go to. Sometimes it takes someone to put a shop back on your radar. This was the case with Chatei Hatou. I first came across in it Oliver Strand’s piece in the New York Times Magazine. It’s in Shibuya, an area that I often go to. However, it is in a part of Shibuya that I rarely get to. So, it was on my Go List, but not high on the list. Until a great client who knows his coffee told me that I absolutely must go and check it out. He warned me that a cup of coffee would set me back $15. He also mentioned that while there were a variety of cups behind the counter, that customers did not select one, but that the master would size me up and choose one for me.

I finally found myself in the back streets of Shibuya. Walking in the area I realized I must be somewhere in the vicinity of Chatei Hatou and I pulled out my Go List and made a beeline for the shop. Well, beeline is a stretch, as I did get lost once. That’s good for a city where most streets do not have a name.

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Just down a side street off of a major street and up a few meters from the Lacoste. The narrow shopfront sticks out on the street. It has charm and character and could have been modeled after a ski house in Europe.  The interior is dark and there is a lot of bric-a-brac on the walls on tables. I am guessing accumulated over the years as it opened in 1989. Walking in I knew I was back in Japan as it did smell of tobacco smoke. Bummer, but it wasn’t too smoky and I had to try what my friend said was one of the best coffees in the city.

I was seated at the counter, just in front of the master. I ordered a demitasse of “old beans” as it appears on the menu (900 JPY). I was told it would be bitter and he pointed to the demitasse cups. I nodded in approval and the dance began. The beans were grounded, put into a sock, and then the master used a small, flat wooden spatula and shaped the ground beans in the sock into a mountain shape. He then started to slowly and purposefully pour hot water onto the grounds. What I was amazed at was that he did not put the sock over a coffee pot or cup. He continued to pour water and the grounds started to expand and soak up the hot water. After pouring for a while he finally put the sock over a small glass carafe to capture the coffee. I was mesmerized at his attention to each detail. Hot water was poured into my demitasse as he finished up the coffee. He put the carafe down behind the counter. I am not sure if he was heating it up or what. But after about a minute of my cup being warmed he poured the coffee into the cup and presented it to me. Quite the ceremony. And, a very good cup of coffee. Dark, yet smooth, and only slightly bitter.

The other customers were a mishmash of chatty housewives, single people reading books, a group of guys holding a business meeting. It was surprisingly full at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday night. If it were smoke-free I would plan on going back soon. Am glad I took the advice of my friend. It is a unique look into the coffee culture in Tokyo.

Chatei Hatou 茶亭 羽當

Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 1-15-19

03-3400-9088

11:00 – 23:00

no holidays, even open on Sundays

Takano Fruit Shop – Melon Juice

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The hundred dollar muskmelon. Yes, it exists. Most of the cost of the melon, I have been told by a fruit store executive, is for the air-conditioning of the greenhouses in summer or for the heaters in winter. The muskmelon juice at Takano fruit café in Shinjuku Takashimaya is a nice alternative. The shop also has fruit parfaits and sandwiches of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

The café is located on the fifth floor of Shinjuku Takashimaya. The brightly lit restaurant is furnished in white and the windows overlook Shinjuku station. It is an ideal spot to meet with a friend and catch up, or to refresh after some power shopping at Takashimaya and Tokyu Hands which is next door. Takano Fruits main shop is in Shinjuku and has a bigger menu.

Some depachika will have a small counter in the fruit specialty shop. When I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya I was surprised to see how popular these counters can be. Not only with older clientele but also with younger couples with their children.

It’s a luxurious treat and something that can only be experienced in Japan.

Takano Fruit

Shinjuku Takashimaya, 5th floor

Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2