The Shibuya area is arguably the center of the speciality coffee and the third-wave coffee world in Tokyo. True, many of the best roasters and pioneers in the coffee scene are in further flung corners, but the Shibuya area may have the biggest concentration. Included in the greater Shibuya area are the Aoyama areas and the Omotesando areas. There you’ll find several amazing cafes all within walking distance of each other. You can easily cafe hop to four or more spots without breaking a sweat. If there is a theme to this particular walk it’s brewing equipment. You’ll be able to check out siphon brewers, wooden pour over/hand drip cones, tower drip, and a traditional nel drip all in an hour (if you’re determined).
So, here’s the standard disclaimer:
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.
If you are at Tokyo Metro’s Omotesando Station you’ll be at a good starting point. The four cafes I’ll be recommending today are off of Aoyama Road (Aoyama Dori) on the east side of the station. You’ll be making your first stop at Blue Bottle’s Aoyama location, located on the second floor above some high-end clothing shop. They put a little sign board out by the road with the trademark Blue Bottle logo, so it’s not hard to miss. Blue Bottle is a solid cafe. They serve good coffee and they serve it well. The Aoyama location even has a siphon coffee bar, so if you’ve been itching to see one of those in action it’s a good opportunity!
One minute southwest of Blue Bottle is Cafe Kitsune. These guys have style, let me tell you. I’m not sure if it makes sense to have a Japan-themed cafe in Japan, but somehow they did it. This spot is worth going to just to soak in the scenery. While you’re there taking Instagram shots you might as well check out their amazing hand made pour over setup. Made out of lightweight lacquered wood (urushi/Japan), it is a beautiful sight. If espresso is more your thing then ask the barista to make you something on their Slayer espresso machine.
When you’ve felt sufficiently steeped in traditional Japanese style, head four minutes southeast to some thoroughly modern decor. Coutume is a warm cafe/restaurant with a clean design. There is plenty of seating both inside, and outside by the busy streets of Aoyama. The espresso is bright with zesty citrus notes. For iced drinks the coffee is brewed via tower drip, and you can see several of these around the shop. It’s an interesting and time consuming brew method that takes hours to complete. This is perhaps the most comfortable of the four cafes, so grab a table or a stool and relax while you sip your joe.
Across the street from Coutume located in a clothing store called Bloom&Branch (full of things I wish I could afford) is Cobi Coffee. There is only bar seating here, but it isn’t usually crowded. Order yourself a brewed coffee to stay and enjoy your front row seat to some real traditional Japanese coffee brewing. There are two choices of bean blends to choose from, one rich and chocolatey, or one fruity and bright, though still full bodied. The baristas here brew their pour overs/hand drip through a flannel filter and with a copper kettle. You can’t get much closer to traditional Japanese cafe culture than a nel drip, dear reader. It’s beautiful to see and quite nice to drink. They also serve espresso flavored shaved ice if you’re interested in something sweet.
That’s it! Five hundred meters and four amazing brewing methods!
Blue Bottle Aoyama: 3-13-14 Minato, Minami Aoyama, Tokyo
Cafe Kitsune: 3-17-1 Minato, Minami Aoyama, Tokyo
Coutume: 5-9-15 Minato, Aoyama, Tokyo
Cobi Coffee: 5-10-5 Minato, Minami Aoyama, Tokyo