Support a local micro-roastery and have a cappuccino with a hedgehog at Yokohama’s best cafés.
When Japan opened up to the rest of the world in the mid-19th century, the port of Yokohama sat at the frontline of international trade. And one of the exotic imports its residents came to embrace was coffee, which is now a vital part of the city’s food and drink scene. With speciality coffee haven Tokyo only 40km (25mi) away and plenty of historical architecture providing a striking backdrop, Yokohama’s café culture is a unique fusion of the traditional and the modern. These are the best coffee shops to experience it.
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This Scandi-cool coffee shop takes the word ‘minimalist’ to a new level. Two blocks from Motomachi-Chūkagai Station in Chinatown, Yokohama Coffee Stand’s grey-tile exterior welcomes visitors to an ultra pared-down space with white walls, blonde floorboards and only a couple of timber benches on which to sit and sip a cappuccino. This place is all about the coffee – a selection of cookies is the only food available to go with a brew from the La Marzocco Linea Classic machine, manned by only one barista, who also whips up seasonal products such as strawberry-infused coffee.
Seattle might be more than 7,500km (4,660mi) from Yokohama, but this Western-style café opposite Yamashita Park is a homage to the city that gave the world Starbucks. Seattle also pioneered latte art in the 1980s thanks to David Schomer and his roastery Espresso Vivace, and Cafe Elliott Avenue is one of the rare places coffee lovers can find Vivace beans in Japan. Manning the La Marzocco Strada EP-2 are Junko Hata and Kengo Koshiishi – a pair of baristas trained in Seattle by Vivace – who pour velvety smooth lattes to be enjoyed in the spacious booths and tables that surround the roomy coffee bar.
Japan is known around the world for its cat and dog cafés, but hedgehogs? That’s a new one. Sharing the same block with Yokohama Coffee Stand, Hedgehog Cafe Harry is a haven for these adorable little creatures; they’re normally so tuckered out from running around their spinning wheels that they fall asleep in customers’ hands. Coffee and hedgehog snacks are included in a half-hour visit to this cosy space, which has a tree growing in the centre of it and cartoons explaining the different variations – such as salt and pepper, cinnamon and apricot – on the walls.
Chano-ma is one of the venues breathing new life into the 90-year-old Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse – a historic industrial hub at the heart of Yokohama’s port, reinvented since the turn of the millennium as a food and culture hotspot. This huge venue bills itself as a tea room for the 21st century, right down to the DJ booth spinning relaxing tracks to go with a warm drink and choice of seating options, from the shoeless koagari platforms to the balcony tables gazing out over the Bay Bridge. Tea is the speciality here, but coffee lovers won’t be disappointed.
Owner Naruto Akaishi fell in love with Australian coffee culture when he lived Down Under for seven years, so much so that he built an Aussie-style café when he returned to Japan. Sitting on a street corner near Isezaki-chōjamachi Station, the sign above the door promises two classic Aussie treats inside: pie and coffee. Beans from London roastery Allpress Espresso and warm meat pies as good as any on offer in Sydney suit the subtle Australian decor, including road signs on the walls and a laughing kookaburra in the logo. Good On You also turns into a standing bar every evening after 5pm.
Bukatsudo is an uber-modern co-working space overlooking the docks of Minatomirai. And the work lounges, classrooms, meeting spaces and art studios brimming with young professionals are fuelled with caffeine from this equally trendy speciality coffee bar. With polished concrete floors and a buzzing neon sign above the Synesso Cyncra 2 machine, Bukatsudo serves coffee from Japanese roasters Switch Coffee Tokyo and HONO Roasteria – order an elaborate syphon filter for a dash of chemistry with the cuppa. The café also runs lessons on latte art and brewing techniques for budding baristas.
Husband-and-wife team Kohei and Miruki Nakamura run this welcoming micro-roastery, which roasts its coffee beans in-house. Sharing a red-brick building with an antique shop and residential apartments, Nagi Coffee is a laid-back coffee shop with a few wooden stools next to bins full of beans explaining the provenance of each brew. Beans from Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, Sumatra and every other corner of the coffee-growing globe are on the menu, as are limited-edition roasts sourced from Brazil and Ethiopia, which are available in 100gm (3.5oz) bags to take away. However, the house signature is the Nagi Blend, which combines four different beans, each roasted separately.
Café de la Presse’s marble pillars and glistening gold coffee machine could have been lifted straight out of Paris in a bygone era. Sharing a grand four-storey building with Yokohama’s cultural centre and a couple of museums, this French café’s dessert cabinet is jam-packed with macarons, pastries and other sweet treats – a view almost as impressive as the row of ginkgo trees on Nippon Odori Street near the port outside. The drinks list includes concoctions called the journalists’ coffee (a separate double espresso and whipped milk for “grumpy reporters”, per the menu), the lawyers’ coffee (mixed with egg liqueur advocaat “to refresh your tongue like a lawyer”) and the judges’ coffee (a blend of coffee and orange liqueur as a “cup of awareness”).
Local roastery Coffee Tonya runs this retail space close to Yokohama’s bustling train station, offering small bags of its own product as well as green beans that DIY roasters can take home. Staff and signage help visitors select the right beans, depending on their preferred origin, brewing method and roasting preference (light to dark), and anyone who picks up a bag also gets a free coffee from the La Marzocco machine in-store. It’s only a small space – the eight or so seats are overwhelmed by the galaxy of beans that fill the shop – but coffee nerds should pop in to peruse the shelves.
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