Traversing Tokyo: Cafe Culture In West Tokyo

With millennial culture taking over, there has been a huge rise in the cafe and art of coffee. In fact, in true generational style, Dan and I are considering setting up ‘coffee shop’ on our return to the UK (whenever that will be…)

As the worlds largest city, in is therefore no surprise that Tokyo has an epic and wonderful cafe culture for us to explore and get our fix (both culture and caffeine!) We mostly try to drink coffee in places which support local businesses and economies. Doing so helps me justify that daily piece of cake with my coffee…so in this blog we are not going to review the beast that is Starbucks for example. Rather, it will focus on more local coffee digs.

Only a true veteran of Tokyo could claim to even come close to knowing those ‘secret’ coffee havens no one else knows about, and even then with the city always changing, I’d take their advice with a pinch of salt. Not wanting to be someone whose advice others look upon sceptically, I’ve decided to keep this cafe culture blog a little more informative and review like, so you can make up your own mind!

Why coffee?

Coffee. The delicious beverage (to some) made from the roasted seeds of the berries from the Coffea plant.  The Coffea plant is a hardy beast which can live for over 100 years and does better in stable warm climates with shaded areas and plenty to drink. Think latitude 25 degrees north and  30 degrees south. Each cherry bud on the Coffea takes around a year to mature. Once picked, dried, and roasted most people will clearly recognise the Coffea’s infamous produce; the coffee bean.

In recent years coffee has been linked to surprising health benefits, including life longevity. However, people don’t usually drink coffee for health reasons (for this they would surely stick to green tea?!) Rather, it is enjoyed for the aroma, flavour, and, hence a cafe culture, the experience. Ten years ago I went on a beer tasting tour. Now I go on coffee tasting experiences! The difference in bean, roast, and brew can change the cup in your hand significantly.

Therefore, in our coffee considerations below we include some places where you can test this for yourself by selecting a dark roast Indonesian coffee verses a light roast one. Or sample a mid roast Peruvian bean verses a deep roast one. You get the idea…

Cafe on a budget

Cafe experiences are not always cheap. In fact, one if the first things to go when you are trying to slim down that spend is treats like a coffee shop.

1. In order to keep the bank in check, we recently decided to sample the mini-chain coffee store Caffe Veloce- メイプルヒル中野, 2 Chome-11-1 Nakano, 中野区 Nakano-ku, Tōkyō-to 164-0001. Here you can pick up a filter coffee for a mere 200 yen. That’s about $1.80.

It’s not going to blow your mind on flavour, but it was a perfectly reasonable brew for that price. They also sell a range of other drinks for a good price too; I picked up a tasty Roobis Mint tea for 220 yen. Why two drinks? We were trapped here during one of Tokyo’s many August thunder storms…

2. Convenience store cafes can often offer a bargain coffee brew for a very reasonable price; just 100 yen in the 7-11. It is brewed from the bean and so you are guaranteed a decent cup. Some of the stores also have cafe areas where you can take a seat and relax. We found some decent seating in the Family Mart (also 100 yen coffee) in Shibuya – 渋谷ガーデンフロントアネックス, 3 Chome-26-3 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tōkyō-to 150-0002.

Simplicity

Simple cafes with a no fuss interior and decent brew are very much the style in Tokyo. Usually the person brewing looks like the kid that was always cool at school, but casually so. They brew you a coffee with a look of adoration on their face usually reserved for loved ones. Luckily, we feel the same as them about coffee and so have a few of these places to choose from!

1. Just up from Nogata station on the Seibu Shinjuku line you can find the delightful Daily Coffee Stand –〒165-0027, 5 Chome-31-8 Nogata, Nakano-ku, Tōkyō-to 165-0027. It’s offerings and interior are as unpretentious as it’s simple name.

I enjoyed a tasty and flavourful decaf cafe latte. Decaf is so rare to find in coffee shops, so it was a real treat to find this place! They also offer decaf filter as well as your regular caffeinated drinks. To go with your drink you can indulge in a nice muffin too. I sampled the Early Grey muffin and whilst it didn’t blow my mind, it was simple and actually quite refreshing.

The interior is simple and relaxing. There are a few different styles of tables for you to chose from, so whilst it is a small space, it works well for small groups, couples, or singles. Overall, it was a peaceful and very enjoyable cup.

2. Next up, also in the Nogata area, is the aptly named Simple Things Coffee –3 Chome-37-11 Wakamiya, Nakano-ku, Tōkyō-to 165-0033. This cafe is a clean and simple space offering white and light wood with solid square tables. That may seem like an odd thing to mention, but lots of cool coffee shops offer an upturned crate, or small plant pot to sit at!

Here Dan and I enjoyed coffee selected from a reaonsably sizable bean menu in the relaxing environment. Dan also sampled the cheesecake, which came back with a mixed verdict. However, the coffee was simply delicious.

This cafe is recommended for those wanting a decent table to work at in a clean and uncluttered environment. You can even take a look at the shiny and substantial coffee roaster through a nice glass partician if you so enjoy.

Fancy

CozyStyle Coffee – 〒161-0034 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kamiochiai, 3 Chome−10−3 is a unique place that has drawn us back many times since we first discovered it. With so many cafes to choose from, that is high praise indeed! We are able to cycle here even though it is in Shinjuku ward and a little further than other offerings. However, it is well worth the bike ride for the atmosphere and selection of beans and roasts available.

The reason this comes under ‘fancy’ (it could come under simple, relaxing, buy your beans too!) is because it offers you the chance to sample several types of beans and five different levels of roast. The more roast, the darker the bean, of coffee the stronger the roast flavour is and the less flavour you get from the actual bean. The lighter the roast the more bean flavour you can enjoy, which is often sweeter and nutty. This means it is a place for those who really want to sample coffee for the flavour, not just the caffeine. And at around 300 yen a cup, you can head back several times for your next cup!

You can also pick up some fresh bread bakes at the weekend and various cakes to go with the coffee. Yum.

With a view

So it can be a little hard to find a cafe with a view other than the road it sits next to in Tokyo. However, we managed it, and a mere stones throw from our apartment! Win!

The delightful Shi-No-Cafe (only open Thursday to Saturday- 1 Chome-8-9 Nogata, Nakano-ku, Tōkyō-to 165-0027) is a wonderful place to spend some time relaxing and looking out onto the cafefully created Japanese garden. It is a practical garden, with both a Japanese style water feature and also a vegetable plot. You can enjoy drinking in the views and coffee whilst munching on fresh vegetable dishes grown in the garden you are now enjoying.

The lovely owner told us that the house used to belong to her grandfather, and when he passed away seven years ago, they transformed the living space into a cafe for part of the week. The tasty coffee comes in slightly odd tall cylindrical cups, but it is really worth going for the lunch set and coffee! Fresh vegetables and relaxing vibes.

Old school / Quirky

1. Itsuki Coffee Roastery (〒164-0003 東京都中野区Higashinakano, 4 Chome−4, 東中野4丁目4−3, 山内ビル山内マンション, 1 階) at Higashi-Nakano is a cute and quirky space offering delicious coffee and even an English menu! The space is cosy, but the atmosphere and importantly coffee are top notch. Friendly staff, lots of wood, and great coffee, what’s not to love?

You can choose your coffee type and beans, ranging from light to dark roast. I enjoyed a cup of Ethiopian coffee and Dan slurped down his favourite, Nicaragua. Both had distinct, deep, flavours and were created with care, using the drip coffee method.

The inside of the cafe offers three square table and then a coffee bar for four more patrons. It’s not large, but it is worth bumping elbows for the relaxing atmosphere and good brew. The quirky features come in the form of the extras, like the hanging plats, aluminium ceiling, and interesting art adorning the walls. You can also check out their mini red coffee roaster – itt is one that looks like it gets a lot of use rather then being one just for show!

2. Another quirky space with dark wood vibes can be found at 江古田珈琲焙煎 (〒165-0023 Tōkyō-to, Nakano-ku, Eharachō, 2 Chome−7−19). The cafe offers a big choice of beans in a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.

Why quirky? Well every time the barista grinds beans the lights in the cafe dim in time with the grinder! It also enjoys a darker and more mysterious atmosphere than some of the fresh white and beech wood places around Tokyo.

You can also get cheese on toast here, what’s not to love?!

To buy beans (and drink samples)

It may not be that surprising to hear you can buy your beans in almost all of the places I have mentioned in this blog, with the exception of the budget places. However, without a doubt, hands down the winner of best beans goes to CozyStyle Coffee – 〒161-0034 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kamiochiai, 3 Chome−10−3. Yes I’ve mentioned it twice, but it really does deserve it!

So, if you want to enjoy some excellent coffee, the Tokyo scene has a lot to offer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.