About 15 minutes walk from Shibuya Station and Tokyo’s most famous pedestrian scramble, you’ll find a quieter part of Shibuya. Here, just off the main road and down a boutique and bar lined walking path, sits Fuglen, a cafe that strikes you as tastefully stylish right away.
The cafe is housed within a simple white building. Bench seating has been built into the exterior and wraps around two of the outside walls. The inside is equally aesthetically pleasing. The front wall of the cafe is nearly all windows, yet it still feels dark and mysterious in Fuglen. The deep teak woods, the ancient hand-made wallpaper, and the vintage Norwegian furniture all feel stuck out of time. If it wasn’t so frequented by chic and fashionable Tokyoites you might think you’ve wandered in to a mid-century time slip.
The coffee, however, is not as old-fashioned. It’s bright, crisp, and clean. It’s juicy, sweet, and succulent. It’s very much here in the present. They offer coffee prepared in a number of ways: Espresso is pulled on a Slayer espresso machine. Filter coffee offerings include pour-overs, AeroPress, and batch-brews. Scandinavian style light roast coffee is the prevailing style here, and single origin African beans are especially popular.
So, how did a Scandinavian cafe end up in Tokyo? Well, It all stems back to a group of passionate individuals in Oslo, Norway. A small cafe called Fuglen, meaning bird in Norwegian, has been operating there since 1963. In recent years the high-quality coffee chain Stockfleth’s had been running Fuglen, but decided that they didn’t need such a small cafe in their roster. Norwegian Barista Champion, Einar K Holthe was a manager for Stockfleth’s at the time. He asked the company to sell the small shop to him. And they did, for the rough equivalent of 15 cents.
The day Holthe bought Fuglen he met Peppe Trulsen, a man with a passion for vintage handmade furniture. The two got to talking and decided that a cafe that also highlights the Norwegian craftsmanship of the past would be an interesting concept. A few years later they pulled in cocktail enthusiast Halvor Digernes and had the complete team. The same year cocktails came to Fuglen Oslo so did a man named Kojima Kenji from Japan. He was looking for any opportunity to study Scandinavian coffee. The Fuglen guys gave him a chance in their cafe and Kojima worked his butt off in return.
Holthe had been a fan of Tokyo ever since he had been there for the 2007 World Barista Championships. He also had a dream of opening a Fuglen in several major cities throughout the world. After getting to know Kojima they decided that he was the man to run the Tokyo location for them and they set it into motion. In May, 2012 Fuglen Tokyo opened their doors.
It took a while to create a following for the cafe. Tokyo, where dark-roast has long been king, didn’t quite have the palate for the bright and citrusy Scandinavian style beans. Every customer had to be warned: “This is Norwegian style coffee,” and hardly anyone came for over three months. Eventually an article in Brutus Magazine about this interesting style of coffee prepared in a strange way (AeroPress) at a vintage inspired cafe changed all that. Curious customers started to come and check out what was going on.
Since then Fuglen has built a steady following. To keep up with demand and to ensure quality Kojima has opened a Tokyo based coffee roaster for Fuglen—which is a much more practical approach than importing beans from Oslo—but still stays faithful to the flavors that put Scandinavian coffee on the map. Despite the weekend crowds of curious coffee enthusiasts there are still moments of peace to be found at Fuglen. Mornings and evenings, especially, can be laid-back and quiet. If you have a chance grab a cup of coffee, sit outside on a bench, and be glad Fuglen flew your way.
Fuglen Tokyo is located at 1-16-11 Tomigaya, Shibuya, Tokyo
8:00 am – 10:00 pm
8:00 am – 1:00 am
8:00 am – 2:00 am
9:00 am – 2:00 am
9:00 am – 12:00 am