About Life Coffee Brewers is part of the small Onibus Coffee group which has its own roastery in Yakumo, although it also serves coffee from two other Tokyo roasters, Switch Coffee Tokyo and Amameria Espresso. No more than a coffee stand at the top (western) end of Dōgenzaka in Shibuya, it’s something of an institution and a favourite of many visitors to the city. Serving mostly takeaway customers (so don’t forget to bring your own cup), you can stand at the counter or sit on one of two benches down the side. There’s also a semi-secret sheltered standing-room only area inside, which is handy if it’s raining.
For such a small spot, About Life has a large output. There’s a concise with/without milk espresso menu, with the Onibus house-blend used for milk drinks and blends from the other two roasters available as espresso/Americano. However, what’s really impressive is the selection of six single-origins, two from each roaster. These can be had as an espresso (no milk) or as a pour-over through the V60. All the coffee, espresso and pour-over, can be had hot, or with ice. The selection of single-origins is seasonal, changing every two to three months.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
About Life Coffee Brewers is one of four (now five) branches of Tokyo’s Onibus Coffee, which I discovered on my first visit to Japan in April 2017. However, it really came into its own on my return last week, when I was working a few minutes’ walk away, making About Life a natural source for all my coffee needs.
About Life is effectively a coffee stand. Long and thin, it faces a broad alley at the top end of Dōgenzaka, one of Shibuya’s main drags running west from Shibuya crossing. There’s a small window for ordering/collecting on Dōgenzaka itself, but this is more for show and to catch the eye of passing pedestrians. The main window faces the alley, where you’re met by a row of three V60s on their chemistry-set stands, plus the menu.
You order/collect your coffee here, plus you can watch your coffee being made, although try not to get in the way. Alternatively, you can wait on a small bench to the right, with a longer, narrower bench further along on the side of the building. Although mostly used by customers waiting for their coffee, you can sit and drink your coffee here if you like.
Alternatively, head inside, although this is not clear to the casual visitor. There’s a sliding glass door to the right of the main window, between the two benches. Although it looks as if it’s only there to let the staff in/out, if you head inside, you’ll find a narrow, tiled area to the right with a narrow shelf running along the back wall. You can get maybe four people in here and it’s ideal for sheltering from the sun/rain while waiting for your coffee, which you are also welcome to drink here. Finally, it’s by far the best vantage point to watch the espresso being made on the two-group La Marzocco Linea.
On my first visit in 2017, I had the Guatemala San Gerardo from Switch Coffee Tokyo, taking the opportunity to try it as both pour-over and espresso. As a pour-over, it was okay, but it really came into its own as an espresso. It had a fruity aroma, while giving a big hit on the first sip, the acidity really coming through, along with a hint of sourness and an all-round mouthfeel.
On my return in 2018, I had an excellent two-shot latte to start my day, but quickly realised that since I was there for four days, I could try all the single-origins, so that’s exactly what I did, starting each morning with a two-shot latte, while calling back during the day to try one or two of the single-origins. You can see what I made of the six single-origins in my follow-up post, Six Single-origins (and four lattes) in a Week.
Since visiting About Life, I’ve also been to the original coffee shop/roastery in Nakameguro (now just a coffee shop following the opening of the new roastery in Yakumo) and to Ratio &C, Onibus’ coffee bar inside a bike shop.
|1-19-8 DOGENZAKA • SHIBUYA-KU • TOKYO • 150-0043 • JAPAN|
|www.about-life.coffee||+81 (0) 3-6809-0751|
|Monday||08:30 – 20:30||Roaster||Onibus, Switch, Amareria (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:30 – 20:30||Seating||Stand-bar Bar, Benches (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:30 – 20:30||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||08:30 – 20:30||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:30 – 20:30||Payment||Cash Only|
|Saturday||09:00 – 19:30||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||09:00 – 19:30||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||18th April 2017, 17th-20th July 2018|
Liked this? Then don’t forget to check out the Coffee Spot Guide to Tokyo for more great Coffee Spots.
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