In an ideal world every cafe you visited would be a hidden gem on some unknown back street, with antique furniture, artfully mismatched crockery and hand-ground coffee beans. But, let's be honest, a lot of the time you're just looking for a solid caffeine fix and/or somewhere to while away an hour between appointments, often at a train station with nothing but that coffee shop chain connoisseurs love to loathe.
So, whilst wandering around Kichijoji station's under-tracks shopping area wasting time (something which I seem to do quite frequently), I was delighted to find a small cafe right in the station, where the staff know their beans and lovingly and laboriously pour boiling water through filters, in a manner which is part for show and part to demonstrate their coffee prowess.
The decor is clean and simple with a nautical white and navy theme which even extends to the navy straws. The drinks menu ranges from refreshing lemonades to teas and, bizarrely, there are champagne bottles galore behind the service area. Upon further investigation I discovered these to be filled with ‘Grand Cru’ coffee beans which you can take home to recreate the caffeinated goodness available in the cafe. The champagne bottles are a step up from the PET bottles filled with Mi Cafeto’s various regular blends for you to take home.
Both the PET and champagne bottles have been chosen as an unusual way of packaging coffee beans; not only are they a talking point, but they keep the beans extra fresh. Of course, however, if you do purchase the beans for a DIY job you will miss out on the delectable muffins and glossy cakes also on sale. My personal favourite is the chocolate and cranberry muffin, but the bacon and parmesan cheese is a nice savoury option.
Admittedly Mi Cafeto is a chain, but with just seven branches, we can claim to be supporting a boutique business, right? Nibbles start from ¥280, coffees from ¥400, and the extensive range of blends available will take you several visits to get through. Service is friendly if a little slow – but as you get to watch the coffee being painstakingly prepared, it’s completely worth it.