While everyone knows Japan elevated tea to an art form, coffee drinkers will be happy to learn that the Japanese are also some of the biggest consumers of coffee in the world. For those who are new to the Japanese capital, we recommend these spots for a hot drink, a slice of cake or an afternoon snack.
Just across from Yoyogi Park in Shibuya, you’ll find Little Nap Coffee Stand, a tiny coffee shop with a few extra seats outside. It has a laid-back atmosphere and the friendly owner, Daisuke Hamada, will be more than happy to engage in conversation with visitors. The high-quality beans are roasted on-site, and the menu includes single-origin drip coffee along with the typical espresso-based drinks, which are prepared on a Synesso machine.
In the criss-cross backstreets off Omotesando is Lattest, a relaxing little coffee shop. The free WiFi and long, well-lit communal table make it a perfect co-working space, and of course, the coffee is excellent. The ‘lattest’, a shot of espresso in cold milk, is their very picturesque signature drink. As you’d expect from the area, the decor is achingly cool (as is the clientele), complete with exposed concrete walls, leather and metal stools plus a blackboard menu.
Yes, it’s a Starbucks, but not as you know it. Co-designed by architect Kengo Kuma, Nakameguro’s Reserve Roastery is the largest Starbucks in the world. The building incorporates Japanese design elements, such as origami-inspired ceilings and delicate cherry blossoms around the huge, hammered-copper cask rising through the centre of the building. The flowers are inspired by the springtime views over the river just outside, which is lined with sakura trees. On the floors above the roastery and café, the building houses Princi bakery, Teavana and the Arriviamo bar.
Conveniently located across the road from Shibuya Station, L’Occitane Café is owned and operated by the cosmetic brand L’Occitane. The store itself is located on the first floor, while the chic café occupies the second and third floors. The café serves light, French-influenced food and is famous for its desserts – but the real reason to come is for the excellent view of Shibuya Crossing through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
Owned by latte art champion Hiroshi Sawada, Streamer Coffee Company is one of the most popular coffee shops in Tokyo. Unsurprisingly, given the owner, every cup of coffee comes with latte art, whether a cute cartoon character or intricate leaf pattern. In all of the Tokyo branches, the decor is sleek and industrial and there’s good free WiFi, so you can catch up on work while indulging in the wonderful coffee. The star attraction is the Streamer Latte, served in a soup bowl-sized mug.
Sarutahiko Coffee was established in 2011 by the actor Tomoyuki Otsuka, with the goal of bringing a smile to your face with just one cup of coffee. The intimate Ebisu flagship store can seat up to 25 people, serving drip coffee and espresso drinks from the Synesso machine, and the single-origin beans and blends are high quality. The space is warm, welcoming and unpretentious, and you can buy beans to take home with you.
Located on the second floor of a sleek modern building in Kanda, Social Good Roasters lives up to its name, aiming to provide not only excellent coffee in a relaxed environment but also fulfilling jobs for neurodiverse or disabled employees. Their medium-roast Social Good Roasters Blend makes deliciously smooth espressos and lattes, which you can enjoy in the light, welcoming café.
Across the river from Asakusa in Sumida is From Afar 倉庫01. Occupying an open, airy space in a converted warehouse (the end of the cafe’s name is “souko 01”, which means “warehouse 01”), it’s a mix of coffee shop, gallery and flower shop, with craft items and flowers often for sale. The menu is simple but perfectly executed, from black coffee to hojicha (twig tea) latte and fruit tarts served in a mix of antique and modern crockery and glassware.
Open for 25 years, Chatei Hatou is a slice of traditional Tokyo kissaten culture in the middle of hypermodern Shibuya. The interior is cool and quiet, clad in dark wood accented with greenery, there’s no WiFi to distract you and you can only pay in cash. The drinks aren’t cheap, but they’re expertly made from the highest-quality ingredients, whether bean or leaf, and there’s always a tempting array of cakes to enjoy as you linger over the cup. As with most traditional kissaten, smoking is allowed here, so bear that in mind if it’ll ruin your meditation on the perfect cup of dark-roast coffee.