5 Exceptional Cafés to Try In Tokyo

With skyscrapers, Buddhist temples, delicious food, Japanese whiskey, and delicious specialty coffee brewed on every corner, Tokyo has something for everyone to love.

BY TANYA NANETTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT

Photos by Tanya Nanetti

Every time I see Tokyo, I fall a little more in love.

On my first visit, I was won over by the city’s striking architecture and landscape, with its beautiful Buddhist temples flanking the skyscrapers, and cherry trees in full bloom mixed with life-size replicas of Gojira (Godzilla) and Gundam. On my second visit, I indulged in Tokyo’s food scene, among the most diverse and delicious in the world: tasty ramen and delicate gyoza, crispy tonkatsu and Japanese curry, homemade mochi, cotton cheesecake and dorayaki. Most recently, I experienced all the incredible beverages: craft beer and soda; sake, soju and Japanese whiskey; green tea and matcha; and of course, specialty coffee.

Today we look at just four of the many coffee shops and roasters we visited in the city, perfect to start exploring Tokyo’s vibrant specialty-coffee scene.

Leaves Coffee Roasters was founded by a former boxing champion and has become known worldwide as one of Japan’s best roasters.

Leaves Coffee Roasters

Our expectations for Leaves Coffee Roasters were pretty high since we first discovered them at last year’s World of Coffee in Greece. There, as we sipped one of their delicious light-roast Colombian brews, we had the chance to meet founder and roaster Yasuo and learn more about his unique story. A former boxing champion who retired due to a serious injury, he shifted his energies to coffee roasting. In just a few years, he became one of the best-known and most popular coffee roasters in Japan, with the goal of becoming world roasting champion within a year or two. Yasuo shares, “We’ve come this far without even having a championship title because I believe it’s the result of our pursuit of quality. Next, the future awaits us in pursuing not just quality, but also a title. We want something visually appealing and satisfying to the taste buds.“

During our stay in the city we had the opportunity to visit the roastery (a beautiful industrial space just outside Asakusa, one of Tokyo’s oldest and most distinctive neighborhoods), and the nearby Leaves Coffee Apartment, a cozy corner store that unfortunately closed for good a few days later.

Trying a pourover at Koffee Mameya.

Koffee Mameya

Along with Leaves, Koffee Mameya (which literally translates to “the bean house“) is consistently recommended by coffee lovers all over the world as one of the coolest cafés in Tokyo. So we couldn’t resist visiting both locations, one so different from the other.

The first Mameya is just around the corner from Omotesando (one of the city’s main shopping streets, often referred to as the Japanese Champs-Élysées). This minimalist and super sleek hole-in-the-wall has a long line all day long, serving—just for takeout or purchase—a long list of coffees from around the world, presented in an elegant periodic table that lists the different beans following their roasting style.

The second location, Koffee Mameya Kakeru, opened in 2021 in East Tokyo with a totally different concept. It’s housed in a former warehouse converted into a beautiful coffee bar featuring a long U-shaped counter. Baristas behind the bar are dressed in white jackets reminiscent of lab coats, working their magic as coffee scientists.

Accessible by reservation only, Mameya Kakeru offers several Koffee Omakase options (coffee experiences that include pourovers, coffee cocktails and mocktails, milk brew, and so on). It also offers the option of choosing specific drinks from its long list of beans for a perfectly tailored experience.

Single O is an Australian roaster that has seamlessly blended Japanese and Australian coffee cultures, to delicious effect.

Single O Japan

Looking for a new coffee to try on a cold Sunday morning, we discovered Single O Japan’s roastery, a beautiful industrial space open only on weekends that—we learned over a delicious filter—was about to move in a few days.

Chatting more over a second coffee, a perfect flat white, we got to understand why this milky beverage was so delicious and why, in a way, it resembled a classic Australian “flattie“ so much: Single O was born in Sydney more than two decades ago and arrived in Tokyo years later, immediately creating a coffee culture that perfectly blends Australia and Japan.

Not having the chance to visit the roastery’s new headquarters (though we will definitely be back to do so), we couldn’t avoid at least a quick coffee at Single O Hamacho: The first flagship café to open in Tokyo, it features the original self-service free-pour coffee batch taps where you can pour yourself a nice cup of batch brew choosing from six different coffees each day. A truly original experience.

Kielo Coffee is a specialty café located in Akihabara, a welcome gem in a neighborhood known for maid cafés and anime shops.

Kielo Coffee

We then headed to Akihabara, one of Tokyo’s nerdiest neighborhoods, known the world over for its stores specializing in manga and anime, electronics, collectibles, and more. Our plan was not to shop, but to seek out one of the city’s best tonkatsu (pork cutlet). And after a long line and a delicious lunch, we searched for a freshly made pourover (a not-inconsiderable effort in a neighborhood that has hundreds of maid cafés and only a handful of specialty-coffee shops). Lucky for us, we stumbled into Kielo Coffee, a small roastery packed to the rafters with another long line out the door. We opted for a Colombian Sidra prepared for takeout, and what a surprise! Lightly roasted and very tasty, it was just what we needed to continue our afternoon exploring the neighborhood.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.

Cover image of the April + May 2024 19th Anniversary Issue

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