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.

Switch Coffee

Switch Coffee

Switch Coffee

One of the best part of our job doing food tours is that we make new friends each day. Most of our clients are passionate about food and many come with a list of shops and restaurants to visit while in Japan. A well-traveled coffee aficionado told me that he had been visiting many coffee shops during his visit to Tokyo and that hands down his favorite was Switch Coffee in Meguro. The client and I had shared a coffee together and I knew that I could trust his recommendation. He filled his suitcase with Switch Coffee to take home with him.

Switch Coffee Exterior

Switch Coffee Exterior

Switch Coffee is a nice walk from Meguro station, down the hill and near the Meguro River in a quiet residential area. It was almost too quiet and I had to keep looking at Google Maps to make sure I was headed in the right direction. The map on his website works like a charm. You will know when you have arrived when you see the cerulean blue shopfront.

There is a small bench in front of the shop, just right for enjoying a cup. Don’t come here expecting to get any work done on your laptop.

Switch Coffee

Switch Coffee

Onishi-san helped to recommend beans to take home as well as something to drink there. Masahiro Onishi-san had a half-dozen coffees on the counter to sample. The coffee does not sit on a burner, so it may not be hot when you sample it, but it is enough to know if you would like the coffee or not. The coffee menu includes espresso, pour-over, and French Press.

Many coffee shops in Tokyo serve a dark roast. Onishi-san lightly roasts his beans in the back of the shop. For me it was a refreshing change from what I am used to. This coffee shop and micro-roastery is a must visit if you love coffee.

Arigato shout-out to @bluecirclehead (twitter) for putting this on my radar. :-)

Switch Coffee

Switch Coffee

 

Switch Coffee

Meguro-ku, Meguro 1-17-23 目黒区目黒1-17-23

03-6420-3633

http://www.switchcoffeetokyo.com/

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.

Where to Get Coffee at Tokyo Station – Standby Coffee

Standby Coffee by Sarutahiko

Standby Coffee by Sarutahiko

I travel through Tokyo Station almost five times a week. Until recently getting a really good cup of coffee in the morning has been a challenge. Finally there is a great little shop serving coffee by Sarutahiko Coffee in Ebisu (Ebisu 1-6-6). Standby opens at 7 a.m. which is often the time I am getting to the station as I make my way to Tsukiji Market. The shop is hard to find, but persevere for it is worth it. The shop is near the South Entrance to the Shinkansen inside of Tokyo Station. If you have an early morning train out of Tokyo, be sure to allow yourself some time to pick up a cup of coffee at Standby. There is a narrow seating area in the back of the shop if you want to rest your feet.

Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 1-9-1, 1st Floor inside of Tokyo Station (near South Entrance to the Shinkansen)

Shinjuku Station Berg

Shinjuku Station Berg

Berg Morning Plate

I love that Tokyo is so big and filled with so many restaurants that new gems keep presenting themselves. On a recent television program Berg in Shinjuku Station came up as a great B Gourmet restaurant, cheap and delicious. It is open from 7 a.m. and stays open until late at night. It is located just outside of the Shinjuku JR Station’s Higashi-Guchi. Take a left and walk about 15 seconds and it is on your left.

This morning at 7:05 a.m. the shop already had about five tables of customers and there was a line at the counter. I placed an order for the Morning Plate which comes with coffee and was just under 500 JPY. Can’t beat this.

The shop also has many hot dogs and beer on tap. There is a menu of side dishes that includes a cheese plate and other beer-friendly plates. I was so happy to see a poster for Baird Beer’s Rising Sun Pale Ale as the featured Japanese craft beer. Was tickled when a guy who had just finished his breakfast go back to order the Baird beer. If I weren’t off to Tsukiji Market for a tour I would have joined him.

Shinjuku Station Berg

Shinjuku Station Berg

Behind the counter were seven staff, all donning denim aprons with BERG stitched onto it and wearing colorful bandannas on their heads. For the life of me I can’t figure what seven people would be doing there. They were all busy and seemed to have some task.

A dozen kegs of beer were set off to one corner. A sign that this shop goes through a lot of beer. I will be back, later in the day next time. I hope the Baird Beer will still be the featured beer. I have walked by this shop for years and never bothered stopping by. Glad it’s finally on my radar.

Berg

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-38-1, Lumine EST B1

Simple map:

http://www.berg.jp/map/map.html

 

Tsukiji’s Smallest Coffee Shop Amikane コーヒー網兼

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86-year old Hatsue Murata of Coffee Amikane

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Tsukiji’s smallest coffee shop, Coffee Amikane, only seats six. It’s only open two days a week, Tuesday and Saturday. The hours are short, I believe 7:30 to 10 a.m. on Tuesday and possibly until noon on Saturday. If you are lucky to find an empty seat at the shop then grab a seat and have Murata-san pour you a cup of Joe for 250 JPY. More than anything, take in her lovely smile.

Hatsue Murata starts by warming up the coffee cup in a bowl of hot water. The coffee is in a large enamel coffee pot and is sitting in a pot of hot water. On the counter you will find condensed milk and sugar.

We were lucky as Murata-san’s daughter, who lives in California, happened to be there at the shop. Her mother is hard of hearing so her daughter shared with us her story. That she grew up in the house over the coffee shop. Her mother pointed to the coffee grinder and said that it was about 50-years old and her daughter corrected her mother saying it was more like 60 years.

When asked why her mother was still working the daughter said that in Japan, some people think that once you retire you are no longer useful. Her mother only opens the shop twice a week and for only a few hours at a time. Hatsue-san has a lovely smile and shows no signs of retiring soon. Her story reminds me of Jiro-san of Sukiyabashi Jiro. Perhaps Jiro-san also has the same feelings that Hatsue-san regarding work as they are both in their 80s.

If you happen to miss getting a seat at Coffee Amikane then be sure to go to my favorite Tsukiji spot, Turret Coffee. Consider yourself lucky if you make it here and can spend a few minutes with the lovely Hatsue-san.

Coffee Amikane

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 6-27-3

Tuesday and Saturday only, limited hours

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.

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