Cobi Coffee: A Modern Classic

Aoyama is a sleek and fashionable section of Tokyo peppered with design studios, trendy eateries, and clothing boutiques. Here you’ll also find a clean and streamlined cafe, decorated with seasoned wood, aged brass, and copper.

Cobi Coffee is a shop within a shop. A cubicle sized coffee workspace with a community table pressed against its side. It sits snuggly within Bloom & Branch, a boutique that sells a fine collection of clothing and housewares. The concept behind Bloom & Branch is to highlight craftsmanship. Whether they are selling a pair of jeans or a scrub brush it’s artisan made. Cobi Coffee is no exception to this idea; they serve handmade coffee with a focus on the preparation.

DSCF7252Cobi Coffee features offerings from Obscura Coffee Roasters, a specialty coffee roaster with the mission of accenting the natural sweetness of their beans. Espresso drinks and filter coffees are available, but nel drip coffee is where they excel. Nel drip, short for flannel drip, is pour-over coffee prepared through a cloth filter. It’s a style of brewing that was popularized in classic  Japanese coffeehouses (kissaten). It’s both charmingly rustic and delicious.

Borrowing more from tradition, Cobi’s seating arrangement is modeled after a Japanese tea room, or chashitsu. The seating concept, where the host sits center and prepares tea in front of the guests, is the inspiration for Cobi’s structure. Drawing further from Japanese tea culture, Cobi offers handmade seasonal wagashi, or Japanese sweets. Wagashi come in many shapes and forms, but are often designed to evoke the seasons and even sub-seasons. The ever changing selection at Cobi ensures that your experience there is never stagnant.

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It was early summer when I visited, so kuzu-mochi was served. Kuzu-mochi is slippery and chewy, something like gelatin. It is served chilled, and at Cobi, topped with roasted soy flour, ginger slivers, and walnuts. The kuzu-mochi itself is refreshingly clean in taste, while the soy-flour adds a bit of depth and sweetness. The ginger is an excellent touch that works well in adding some zest to the subtle flavor.

Though much of the inspiration behind Cobi Coffee is found in tradition it feels throughly modern. The design is sleek and the surrounding merchandise in Bloom & Branch is undeniably chic. The tools to brew the coffee are classic, but the style of the coffee served is keeping with the times. It’s a beautiful blend of current and vintage, a mix of western and Japanese; proof that you don’t have to throw away the old to make something new. In fact, Cobi (古美) translates roughly to beauty in age.

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These concepts are also in play in their second location, Cobi Coffee Box. Located in the Shinjuku Bloom & Branch, this coffee stand has added to the original’s coffee prowess by featuring a larger selection of coffees. In addition to Obscura Coffee Roasters, other Japanese roasters’ offerings are rotated in monthly.

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Photo by Sonia Cao

Cobi Coffee serves excellent coffee and confections; embraces the new but pay homage to the lessons and methods of old. This cafe offers a multi-sensory experience, a place where your eyes and tastebuds will be stimulated but not overwhelmed. Handmade coffee served in handmade cups. It’s something, I think, we can all see the beauty in.

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Aoyama location at 5-10-5 Minato-ku, Minami Aoyama, Tokyo

Mon-Fri:
8:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sat-Sun:
9:00 am – 8:00 pm

Shinjuku location in NEWoMAN at 4-1-6 Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku, Tokyo (4f)

Mon-Sun:
11:00 am – 10:00 pm

Special thanks to Sonia Cao for contributing photos of Cobi Coffee Box.

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