Back home I’m known as quite the coffee buff. My friends jokingly call me ‘beanhugger’ and claim that I won’t drink any coffee made from beans that haven’t been individually spoken to. During my preparatory research into Tokyo Coffee locations I found it hard to find even two handfuls of good coffee places or micro roasteries in Tokyo. This struck me as being impossible in a city of 14 million, so I went on a quest. The articles that will follow in the coming weeks are a summary of a couple of places I visited, and is by no means a complete guide to Tokyo's coffee culture, which is, as I was soon to discover, as big and diverse as the city itself.
My search started at Nozy Coffee’s Roastery in Shibuya, which is located in Cat Alley, or Cat Street, the winding street that connects Harajuku and Shibuya. I had read about this branch store online and happened to come across it on my first walk through town, and I decided to visit it the next day. The large factory-like room is split into two. In front you’re welcomed by a small army of baristas manning the espresso bar. The back is dominated by a large roaster and a multitude of burlap sacks containing unroasted beans. Next to this is a small counter for ordering French press coffee. (To my disappointment I was not allowed to take photographs inside, not even after explaining my mission).
The barista preparing my coffee was very helpful in explaining more about the origin of the beans, even though there were little cupping notes next to them, which were in jars for everyone to sniff. A cup of French press costs either ¥500 or ¥600 depending on the bean.
I asked the girl helping me if she knew any good places. I had only been in Japan for two days and was completely surprised by the time she took to write down all the addresses of places she knew. She even went out of her way to ask most of her colleagues if they knew of any other good ones.
Her list led me to Fuglen. Also a branch store, but this time the parent café is in Norway. Walking from Shibuya Crossing it takes only a couple of minutes to clear the bustling streets and find the quieter parts of this crazy part of Tokyo. A ten-minute walk through a largely residential area brings you to Fuglen, which stands on a corner and is immediately recognizable from the numbers of fixed-gear bikes parked outside and the masses of moustachioed westerners standing next to them, smoking and drinking a filtered coffee.
The coffee is roasted in Norway and shipped overseas to this small store, and it seems that it is not the only thing the Norwegians relocated. From the couch to the tables to the walls, everything breathes Scandinavian vintage design. During the day this provides a nice atmosphere for drinking a more than decent single-origin Aeropressed coffee (around ¥500). At night this cute little cornershop turns into a fancy cocktail bar and the barista transform into well-trained mixologists. A perfect place to spend a warm summer night.
To be continued…