Nem Coffee & Espresso

A lovely shot of the house-blend at Nem Espresso & Coffee in Tokyo, served in a classic white cup.The delightful Nem Coffee & Espresso is definitely the hidden gem of Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene. Located south of the Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park, Nem is tucked away down a narrow, pedestrian alley, so much so that you think you’re walking into a residential neighbourhood to visit someone’s house, which is not as far from the truth as it seems. The coffee shop is on the ground floor of an old house, painstakingly renovated/converted by the owners, a married couple who live upstairs, Nem opening for business in May 2016. The result is a small, but delightful space, with windows front and back, with a very Japanese feel to the architecture, but a very western feel to the coffee shop itself.

Talking of coffee, Nem has a concise menu, drinks split between “black” and “with milk”. There’s a house-blend on espresso (from Switch Coffee Roasters) and two single-origins plus a decaf (from Nozy Coffee) on filter through the cafetiere (hot) or Kalita Wave (cold). There’s also tea and hot chocolate, plus a small food menu, with a choice of two cakes. Small is definitely the name of the game at Nem, with all the food being cooked to order in a compact, open kitchen behind the counter.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On a quiet road south of the Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park in Tokyo is this sign...
  • ... pointing down an unpromising alley, showing the way to Nem Coffee & Espresso.
  • The alley, seen from the other end. You really do feel like you're visiting someone's house.
  • This is what we're after, a short way down on the left-hand side: Nem Espresso & Coffee!
  • And here's the view looking the other way. The alley's a dead-end, by the way.
  • The front of Nem is split into two: window and door on the left...
  • ... and a little porch with this lovely bench, on the right, behind the door.
  • Access is via three broad steps at the front. Let's go in, shall we?
  • The opening hours are handily written on the door.
  • Inside and the counter's on the right. And yes, I did ask permission to take photos!
  • The seating, starting with this large, communal table, is on the left and at the back.
  • Next, by the pillars supporting the ceiling, is this, smaller, five-person communal table.
  • Finally, there are two four-person tables at the back, up against the wall.
  • This is on the left, although it's technically a pair of two-person tables pushed together.
  • This one is on the right, beyond the counter. Again, it's a pair of two-person tables.
  • There's a cabinet full of crokery and glassware against the right-hand wall at the back.
  • And now we're back at the counter, seen here from the other side.
  • The construction seems to be entirely of wood, with a wonderful wooden ceiling.
  • Despite windows front and back, there are some neat lights, this being the best one!
  • I appreciate the provision of coat hooks.
  • So, to business. The counter, as seen from my seat at the table opposite.
  • There's a handy and concise (English!) menu on the wall behind the counter...
  • ... while the version on the counter-top has Japanese translations!
  • There's also a small, but tempting, food menu.
  • The cakes (Dorayaki, top, and Sable, bottom) are on a display stand next to the menu.
  • Meanwhile, the beans for the filter coffee are displayed in glass jars on the counter...
  • ... while there are retail bags available as well, standing in front of the grinders.
  • The espresso machine is at the far end, beyond the two grinders.
  • Nem is a family business and here are the proud owners (who live upstairs).
  • I started off with a cafetiere of the Honduras Los Pinos single-origin...
  • ... plus a dorayaki (red bean pancake)
  • I returned the following day for brunch, the grilled egg toast...
  • ... which I paired with an espresso of the house-blend. Neat sugar pot!
  • I'll leave you with my espresso, a lovely shot (in both senses of the word).
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Nem Coffee & Espresso was conveniently under a ten-minute walk from my original hotel, southwest of the city centre, near the Hiro-O metro station on the Hibiya Line. Although not quite as convenient as Maruyama Coffee (literally across the road from my hotel), it was pretty close, which might explain why I went there twice, once for coffee and again for brunch. Despite that, I probably never would have found it without Caffeine Magazine’s recommendation. You are also unlikely to walk past on the off-chance, the only indication to its presence being an A-board pointing down the unpromising-looking alley. Not where you’d expect to find one of Tokyo’s best coffee shops!

Nem occupies a two-storey, standalone building on the left-hand side of the alley. Raised slightly above street level, access is via a small flight of steps on the left, which leads to a central door. On the right (behind the door when it’s open), there’s a small porch with a three-person bench which would be a lovely spot to sit (someone had beaten me to it).

Inside the layout’s clean and simple, reminding me of a large summer house, the sort you might have in your garden. If this sounds like damning with faint praise, it’s not meant to be: I’d love to have this in my garden! The counter’s on the right, taking up maybe three-quarters of the space. On the left, opposite the counter, are two communal tables with broad wooden stools, while along the back wall, there are two four-person tables with chairs.

It’s compact, but in no way feels cramped. The front is almost all glass, with a huge window next to the door, plus there’s a large window at the back, giving Nem a light, airy feel, the whitewashed walls adding to the sense of a bright, open space. The furniture and exposed ceiling are all wood, while there’s a grey, tiled floor. Overall, it’s a beautiful, stylish space.

During my visit, there was a choice of Honduras Los Pinos or Mexican Santa Teresa single-origins, plus a decaf Honduras on filter, the beans displayed in glass jars on the counter so you can see them. You’re also welcome to sniff them. All the beans are for sale, including the house-espresso, displayed in bags on counter.

I selected for the Los Pinos, based on its aroma in the jar compared to the Santa Teresa. Prepared in a cafetiere, it was served in a single, large, bowl-like mug, the only thing I could find fault with (I’d have preferred it in a carafe). The coffee itself was lovely: light, delicate, and very drinkable. So good, in fact, that it had largely gone before I’d noticed! I paired this with a dorayaki (red bean pancake), a light and fluffy concoction.

The food menu is concise, but tempting. I had the grilled egg on toast, which is just what it says in the name: a fried egg (fried on a griddle, hence “grilled”) on a massive slab of fluffy white toast. If it sounds boring, it wasn’t; it was actually very tasty and the perfect brunch. If only I’d known about it earlier, I’d have probably come here for breakfast the day before as well. As is the case with many places in Japan, the food arrived with a little hand-towel, a very civilised touch.

I rounded things off with an espresso. It smelled bright and floral in the cup, but was more bitter on the first sip, but not unpleasantly so. The shot was pulled commendably short and had a great mouthful and balance: in summary, excellent!

December 2017: Nem Coffee & Espresso was a runner-up for the 2017 Most Unlikely Place to Find a Coffee Spot Award.

July 2018: on my return to Tokyo, I made sure to stay in the same hotel for part of my trip so that I could revisit Nem, which I can report is as lovely as ever.

Since then, I’ve been a regular visitor to Nem, calling in at least one on each of my subsequent trips to Tokyo, including October 2018, September 2019 (when I dropped off a gift: a bag of beans from Speckled Ax in Portland, Maine) and November 2019 (when I dropped off a bag of beans from 3FE in Dublin).

4-5-6 MINAMIAZABU • MINATO-KU • TOKYO • 106-0047 • JAPAN +81 (0) 3-6886-4777
Monday 08:00 – 17:00 Roaster Switch Coffee (espresso) + Nozy Coffee (filter)
Tuesday CLOSED Seating Tables, Bench (outside)
Wednesday 08:00 – 17:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cakes
Thursday 08:00 – 17:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 08:00 – 17:00 Payment Cards, Cash
Saturday 08:00 – 17:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 17:00 Power No
Chain No Visits 14th, 15th April 2017, 22nd, 23rd July, 18th October 2018
8th September, 3rd November 2019

Liked this Coffee Spot? Then check out the rest of Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Tokyo.

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