Note: Omotesando Koffee and Paddlers Coffee in Shibuya closed at the end of 12/2015.
Let’s say you’re visiting Tokyo, you’re hitting up one (or more) of these areas, and you’re curious where you can grab a decent cup of joe. Or, let’s say that you’re visiting Tokyo and your main goal is to drink lots of good coffee. Either way, you’ll find some crucial information in this coffee guide.
I’m writing this in late 2015, so I assume that most blog reading world travelers either have a smart phone or know how to use a computer. Therefore, I’m not giving step by step directions to each shop. Rather, I’m attaching a map and a link to google maps. I also firmly believe that asking people for directions is a good way to interact with the locals and to get suggestions for things you may have otherwise passed up. Grab your vitamin C tablets (helps to counteract over-caffeination, let’s get started.
The starting point of this Coffee Walk is Shibuya Station. Once you’ve seen Shibuya Station and its famous crosswalk you’re probably interested in strolling the streets and seeing the commercial mecca that is the area between Shibuya, Harajuku, and Omotesando stations. You’ll find countless high-end fashion boutiques, streets crowded with neon signs in Japanese, easteries abound, outrageous fashionites parading about, and plenty of other photogenic people, places, and things. It’s arguably a must see area for the full Tokyo experience. It’s also an exciting area for coffee and cafes.
If you head roughly northeast from Shibuya station you’ll be on your way to Cat Street, a young, fashionable stretch frequented by people who match those adjectives. On your way (well, about 5 minutes out of the way) you’ll have a chance to visit the original Streamer Coffee. Streamer is the flagship cafe of latte art legend Hiroshi Sawada. Hiroshi’s a busy guy these days so it’s unlikely that you’ll run into him in the cafe, but you will have a chance to see some spectacular latte art. Streamer’s real specialty is creamy, decorative lattes, and their espresso is a dark chocolatey, slightly bitter variety. So, if you have no interest in lattes or latte art, you may want to skip this shop.
After you’ve instagramed some stellar free-pouring and head back to the main drag that is Meiji Dori (Meiji Street), pop in to Todd Snyder to poke around at some very chic high-end clothes. Once you feel the need for medicinal aid for your sticker shock head to the second floor. There you’ll find Paddler’s Coffee’s coffee bar tucked away in a corner. It’s a nice quiet spot away from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya, and also a great spot to grab a Chemex poured crisp and clean cup of Stump Town Coffee. There are varietal options and the choice of hot or iced. A very neat shop within a shop that makes a very neat cup of coffee.
Now you’ll be just a skip away from Cat Street, so hop on over and poke around the fashion shops and restaurants. When you’ve had your fill of the young and the marvelous you may want to treat yourself to something a little classy as well. I suggest a shot of espresso from the nearby The Roastery by Nozy Coffee. You can’t get much classier than a shot of espresso served up in a champagne flute, trust me. Several of the best shots I’ve drank in Tokyo have come out of this amazing space. There are always two single origin varieties to choose from and they change every few weeks.
Once you’ve walked the length of Cat Street you’ll pop out in the general Jingumae/Omotesando area of Shibuya. A left will take you towards Harajuku station, the beautiful Meiji Jingu shrine, and Yoyogi park. All must sees in Tokyo.
Omotesando Koffee recently closed it’s doors for the time being, if you were a fan of their coffee Toranomon Koffee in Toranomon, Minato-ku will take care of you. Their cafe space and design is breathtaking.
A little off the main street you’ll find Omotesando Koffee within the crisscrossing of narrow and confusing side streets. At first glance this shop appears to be an old Japanese house and, well, it is. This shop is a must due to its amazing use of space, design, and the novelty of enjoying coffee in a legitimate traditional Japanese home. I passed by this place three times before I realized it was where I wanted to be. Please trust me when I say that it is worth your time. It truly feels like a hip coffee stand was dropped in to an old Japanese Grandmas’s living room. The espresso is more of a Tokyo style, meaning it is deep, smokey and chocolatey. However, out of the shops I’ve visited that have claimed to have this style, Omotesando Koffee certainly does it best. A shot designed to stand up to milk or sugar, but still good on its own. Truly a rarity.
From Shibuya Station to Omotesando Koffee you’ve covered two kilometers and scratched four coffee shops off your list. Not bad.
Streamer: 1-20-28, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Paddler’s: 6-18-14, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 2F
The Roastery: 5-17-12, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Omotesando Koffee: 4-15-3 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo (Closed)