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Culture

Cafe Crawl: 5 Coffee Shops Every Coffee Lover in Tokyo Should Visit

Indulge in the finest coffee Tokyo has to offer and embark on a journey that will leave you buzzing with delight. From hidden gems tucked away in bustling neighborhoods to trendy establishments at the forefront of Tokyo's coffee culture.

By 5 min read

You might not consider coffee a quintessentially Japanese tourist experience, but the country actually has a world-beating coffee culture—with a love of everything from single-origin beans to canned vending machine brews. Even the most unassuming cafe can blow you away, and any caffeine-loving visitor simply has to sample Tokyo’s offerings

Here we highlight the more upmarket end of the spectrum, exploring cafes that stand out from the crowd with their tastes and experiences. Although they’re pricier than other places, they’re certainly worth the cost for anyone who puts taste above anything else when it comes to coffee.

1. Koffee Mameya Kakeru (Kiyosumi-Shirakawa)

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A nice cup of Joe.

The first stop for any coffee lover has to be “coffee town” Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, where cafes cluster in one of Tokyo’s most pleasant and relaxed neighborhoods. Quality is high across the board, with common recommendations being Allpress Espresso, Arise Coffee Roasters and Blue Bottle Coffee’s flagship store—but even among these Koffee Mameya Kakeru makes its mark.

Koffee Mameya Kakeru aims to turn coffee tasting into an immersive experience. When you sit down at the shop’s gigantic counter, in full view of the brewing area, you’re greeted by a personal barista, who guides you through their selection of beans and blends and discusses which flavors might suit your tastes. You can order a tasting set of a single coffee in multiple styles or mix and match individual flavors at your leisure. The barista will then brew the coffee right in front of you.

It might sound intense—and the sleek furnishings and labcoat-wearing staff certainly add to that impression—but Koffee Mameya Kakerua actually has a friendly, comfortable atmosphere and is a relaxing place to sip excellent drinks and chat with coffee experts. Just be sure to book ahead—it’s a popular spot and can fill up quickly. If you can’t make it to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, there is also a shop in Shibuya.

2-16-14 Hirano, Koto, Tokyo - Map
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

2. Glitch Coffee & Roasters (Jimbocho)

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Smooth and satisfying.

For a more casual coffee-tasting experience, our next stop is Jimbocho-based Glitch Coffee & Roasters. The small venue offers inexpensive takeout coffee if you need a quick fix, but its main attraction is its sizeable selection of single-origin beans, which change on a daily basis.

The baristas will explain the notes of each bean and give you a tasting card to read while drinking. Black drip coffee comes in a generous serving of about two cups, giving you more value for money than the price might initially suggest. Glitch also offers espresso and taster shots.

Beyond the focus on single-origin, though, Glitch is refreshingly unpretentious—thanks to the retro furnishings and upbeat vinyl music. Unlike many high-end coffee shops, it’s a good place to pop in for some work or reading—while you enjoy the views of the tree-lined streets outside. And if you want to experience Glitch’s coffee while traveling around Japan, the brand has more recently branched out into Osaka and Nagoya.

3-16 Kanda Nishikicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo - Map
Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Mon-Fri); 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Sat-Sun)

3. Caff de l’Ambre (Ginza)

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Old-school cafe vibes.

Over in Ginza, Cafe de l’Ambre may be the most famous of Tokyo’s kissaten—old-school, Japanese coffee shops that harken back to a time before minimalist interiors and hipster barristers. The shop has been in operation since 1948—and although it has become a busy tourist hotspot in recent years, the dark, wood-paneled interior still instantly transports you back to the Showa Era.

Cafe de l’Ambre makes an excellent first impression with its sign outside reading “coffee only.” Inside, the extensive menu offers a variety of single-origin beans for drip coffees, and there’s a range of other brew styles to choose from—plus cold coffees, cocktails and more unusual concoctions. On my latest trip, I picked a shot of very strong (and very tasty) Guatemalan drip coffee, a perfectly-balanced sweet iced coffee and a cup of coffee mixed with egg yolk (better than it sounds).

8 -10-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo - Map
Hours: 12 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. (Tues–Sat); 12 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. (Sun); closed Mondays

4. Ogawa Coffee Laboratory (Shimokitazawa)

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New-school cafe vibes?

Competing with Kiyosumi-Shirakawa for the crown of Tokyo’s top coffee neighborhood is bohemian Shimokitazawa, where countless offbeat cafes squeeze in between vintage clothes stores—and like Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, you’re best served by trying as many of them as possible. For something that goes the extra mile, you can check out Ogawa Coffee Laboratory.

Ogawa bucks the trends of its neighbors with a large, ultra-minimalist interior and a massive selection of beans. It’s not the most comfortable place to sit and drink, but for variety, it might be second to none in the area. More interestingly is the “laboratory.” part of its name. Ogawa puts an emphasis on selling high-end coffee-making tools and offers the option for you to roast and extract your coffee yourself in-store while trying different equipment, with staff on hand to offer guidance if needed.

Ogawa also has smaller branches (without the “laboratory” part) in Kyoto, Yasu and Koshigaya.

3 -19-20 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo - Map
Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
www.oc-ogawa.co.jp/ocl-shimokitazawa

5. The Mosque Coffee (Shimokitazawa)

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Traditional Turkish coffee in the heart of Tokyo.

Authentic Turkish coffee might not be the first thing on your mind when you come to Tokyo. Still, The Mosque, just down the road from Ogawa Coffee Laboratory, has quickly become a must-try among Shimokitazawa’s fierce coffee competition.

The main attraction is that owner Masanori Koyama brews coffee using the traditional Turkish method of heating copper pots in hot sand—a method that has become increasingly rare in Turkey itself and is otherwise nonexistent in Tokyo (and perhaps Japan as a whole).

Turkish coffee is typically very strong, very hot and very flavorful, and comes with grounds resting in the bottom of the cup. In other words, it’s not for the faint of heart. The Mosque’s basic coffee provides all this in spades, and there are also special aromatic and spiced brews in addition to alcoholic blends. To top it off, you can also buy Turkish ice cream and lokum (Turkish delight).

Drinking Turkish coffee amidst The Mosque’s Ottoman furnishings in the middle of Tokyo feels a little strange at first—but the quality of the drinks will soon put any doubts to rest.

1-45-27 Kitazawa, Setagaya, Tokyo - Map
Hours: 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Closed Mon)
Do you have a favorite coffee shop in Tokyo? Let us know in the comments!

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