Chatei Hatou

My filter coffee, served in a gorgeous cup at Chatei Hatou, a traditional Japanese kissaten in Toyko.Japan has a wide, varied coffee culture stretching back to, I believe, the inter-war years. Although Japan has moved with the times, accepting and adapting modern trends in coffee, such as lighter roasting, the old traditions live on. On my first visit in 2017, I wrote about Café de L’Ambre, a traditional Japanese kissaten. I also visited Chatei Hatou (once I’d found it!) but didn’t have a chance to write it up. Since it’s just around the corner from my hotel, it was another place I made a beeline for on my return to Tokyo this week.

The traditional Japanese kissaten is more akin to a bar than a modern coffee shop. Both Chatei Hatou and Café de L’Ambre are long, low, windowless buildings where patrons are still allowed to smoke (although on both my visits Chatei Hatou wasn’t too smoky, perhaps due to the air-conditioning). Only serving pour-over coffee, the best seats are at the counter, where you can watch the coffee being made on a near-continuous basis. Alternatively, there are a number of tables, more cosy two-person ones and some larger, ten-person ones, in the relatively spacious interior. Finally, there’s an impressive range of cakes to tempt you.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On a steep side street just a stone's throw away from the bustle of Shibuya Crossing...
  • ... stands this modest porch, with no real sign of what it is. I walked past it several times...
  • ... on my first visit to Japan in 2017 without realising that it's Chatei Hatou.
  • At least in 2018, I knew what I was looking for. Not much has changed, I see!
  • There's still nothing that jumps out and says coffee shop to me. Let's go in, shall we?
  • The small porch leads to a second door slightly offset to the left...
  • ... which in turn leads to a waiting area, handy when Chatei Hatou is busy.
  • Beyond the waiting area, Chatei Hatou stretches out ahead of you. This is from my viist...
  • ... in 2017, while it looked very similar on my return, tables to the left, counter to the right.
  • There's more seating off to the left at the end of the counter, where you'll find more...
  • ... two- and four-person tables, plus a pair of these magnficent oval ten-person tables.
  • The view from the back of the seating area. The photos were all taken in 2017 by the way.
  • One of the lovely table pieces. It really is beautifully decorated.
  • Both times I managed to get a seat at the counter, the best place to be in my opinion.
  • Chatei Hatou has some beautiful cups which are arranged in rows behind the counter.
  • Here's the grinder, just in case you thought the EK43 was a revolutionary new design...
  • There's also a neat cold-brew set up at the far end of the counter.
  • The coffee menu from my most recent visit this week...
  • ... and the menu from my visit in 2017. Spot the difference.
  • When you order, the first sign that your coffee's coming is an empty saucer on the counter.
  • On my first visit I was recommended the Cafe au Lai, which is half coffee, half hot milk...
  • ... which are both poured from separate pots into your cup.
  • It's worth ordering for the spectacle alone.
  • And here it is. It's hard to do latte art with a 1 metre pour though...
  • My coffee surveys the pour-over filters, which I put to use on my return 15 months later.
  • Cahtei Hatou is very old school. There are no scales or timers here.
  • Everything is done by eye, with larger volumes ground into the metal containers...
  • ... and smaller amounts ground directly into the filter paper.
  • I adored sitting at the counter, with the coffee bieng made on an almost continuous basis.
  • During my visit in 2017, three pour-overs were being made in one go, each for 2+ people.
  • The first pour is a short one, enough to wet the mounds of ground coffee in each filter.
  • Here the first two filters are underway.
  • The coffee is incredibly fresh and so it blooms really well, bubbling up into a dome.
  • In my head, I think of it as a volcano, bubbling up in a dome.
  • The third filter is now started.
  • Now it's back to the first two.
  • Just look at the coffee bubbling away. The water is always poured on top of the dome.
  • Each time water is added, the coffee bubbles up again...
  • ... forming a dome that rises well above the top of the filter.
  • Then it's on to the third filter.
  • This too bubbles up nicely as the other two subside.
  • Then it's back to the first filter and the whole pattern is repeated. Pour a little in the first...
  • ... then the second...
  • ... then the third.
  • The smaller pouring kettle is topped up on a regular basis from a massive kettle...
  • ... which is kept on the boil under the counter.
  • One last round of top-ups for each of the filters...
  • ... and the coffee is still bubbling away...
  • ... right until the end.
  • Now we just wait...
  • ... although not for long. When a filter is done, it's removed from the carafe.
  • The coffee is then poured out into cups to be served.
  • I'll leave you with my coffee from my latest visit on Saturday.
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Chatei Hatou was recommended by several people, including Nem Coffee & Espresso and Koffee Memeya. On a steeply-sloping, quiet side street, just a stone’s throw from the bustle and craziness of the (in)famous Shibuya Crossing, it’s a wonderful, peaceful  haven. You have to know where it is though, since, other than a pair of Japanese Kanji over the door, nothing gives it away from the outside. Even though I was looking for it, I walked past twice on my first visit. Fortunately I knew where it was this time around!

A solitary porch leads into the long, thin low interior. There’s an anteroom where you wait for a seat if It’s busy. Alternatively, a waitress (I didn’t see any waiters on my two visits, while the coffee was exclusively made by men) will beckon you to a seat, which, if you’re lucky, will be at the counter.

Much bigger than Café de L’Ambre, Chatei Hatou is L-shaped, with the long counter, which seats about 12, at the bottom of the L to your right as you enter, stretching away ahead of you. There’s a row of two- and four-person tables against the wall opposite the counter, seating 12 in all, while at the far end, the top of the L stretches off to the left. It has two gorgeous, wooden, ten-person oval tables and more two-/four-person tables, with matching décor, all dark wood, with book cases and an upright clock.

Compared to Café de L’Ambre, Chatei Hatou serves a limited coffee menu, with a blend and five different origins from around the world. The same coffees were available on both my visits, separated by 15 months. There’s also a limited selection of coffee-with-milk drinks, one of which was the Cafe au Lai, recommended by the folks at Nem. This is a 50/50 blend of coffee and hot milk, both poured into your cup at great height from separate pots, the spectacle alone making it worthwhile! The resulting drink was very rich, although I couldn’t tell you much about coffee. However, it went well with the milk and it’s something I could drink all day, reminding me of the cafe au lait I used drink in Paris back in day before I became an espresso drinker.

On my return, I went for a filter coffee, choosing the Guatemalan. Chatei Hatou uses large, ceramic Kalita filters and everything is done by eye: no scales or timers here. The beans are measured out into a metal container then coarsely ground, either directly into the filter paper (no pre-rinsing here) or, for larger volumes, back into the container.

The water is poured directly onto the top of the coffee in a series of short, regular pours, using a gooseneck pot, which is regularly topped up from a huge kettle kept bubbling away on a hot plate below counter. I timed one extraction at 4½ minutes and, when the coffee is done, it’s poured into a pre-warmed cup to serve. These beauties come in a variety of shapes and no two are the same.

A glass of water, which is continuously topped up, comes with your coffee, while if you order tea, it’s served in a pot with a candle underneath it to keep it warm. Finally, you pay at the till by the door as you leave, a tradition in many of Japanese places.

So to my coffee. Strong and dark, although not bitter, the taste reminded me of the Vietnamese coffee I make for myself, with a hint of sweetness. Although there’s no subtlety in the flavour or evolution as it cools, I enjoyed it.

1-15-19 SHIBUYA • TOKYO • 150-0002 • JAPAN
+81 (0) 3-3400-9088
Monday 11:00 – 23:30 Roaster Chatei Hatou (filter only)
Tuesday 11:00 – 23:30 Seating Tables, Counter
Wednesday 11:00 – 23:30 Food Cake
Thursday 11:00 – 23:30 Service Table
Friday 11:00 – 23:30 Cards Cash Only
Saturday 11:00 – 23:30 Wifi No
Sunday 11:00 – 23:30 Power No
Chain No Visits 22nd April 2017, 14th July 2018

If you like the sound of the traditional Japanese kissaten, Audrey Fiodorenko has also written about three of her favourite kissaten, one of which is Chatei Hatou. If you’re in Shanghai, try Rumors Coffee Roastery on Hunan Road, which is modelled on a traditional Japanese kissaten (buut with windows!), while if you’re in Bangkok, try Gallery Drip Coffee, a third-wave take on Japanese pour-over.


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  1. Pingback: Café de L’Ambre | Brian's Coffee Spot

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