My first ever speciality coffee experience in Japan was at Maruyama Coffee in Nishi Azabu, conveniently located across the road from my hotel. Ever since then, I’ve had a soft spot for Maruyama Coffee, a high-end chain which has its origins in Nagano Prefecture. It was therefore fitting that when my friend and local guide, Christopher, took me on a coffee tour of Nagano, our first stop was Maruyama Coffee, which has a lovely coffee shop in the Midori shopping mall at Nagano Station. I also made a point of calling in on my return to Nagano on this trip.
Maruyama is a blend of traditional Japanese hospitality (table service, attentive staff, baskets to put your things in so that they don’t have to rest on the floor) and speciality coffee. In the former aspect, it’s very unlike western coffee shops; in its latter aspect, third-wave aficionados will instantly feel at home. As an added bonus, the Nagano Station location specialises in syphon coffee, which is prepared on the counter-top for all to see. Other than that, you get the usual Maruyama offering, with a bewildering choice of origins and blends through cafetiere and espresso, plus a small food menu.
June 2021: I’ve learnt that Maruyama store in Nagano Station has closed, although the Maruyama in Nishi Azabu is still going strong.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery (all photos from my 2018 visit unless noted).
Maruyama Coffee is on the third floor of the Midori shopping mall, itself on the northern side of Nagano station, while the trains arrive/depart on the second floor. Arriving by train, head for the northern exit and look up: you should see Maruyama above you on the right, although access is by escalator/stairs to your left. At the top, turn right, walk along the crosswalk and Maruyama Coffee is on your right.
Maruyama Coffee is split into two, which, from my limited exposure to Maruyama’s coffee shops, seems to be standard practice, with a retail section at the front, coffee shop behind. The retail selection isn’t quite as big as at Nishi Azabu, but it’s still pretty extensive, with a standalone table running across the front of the store and shelves on the wall to the left, where you’ll find retail bags from Maruyama’s extensive range of coffee. The table, meanwhile, has more retail bags, a small selection of coffee kit and merchandising and, best of all, several samples that you can try.
Beyond this, the coffee shop proper starts, with the counter on the right and a row of six square, two-person tables on the left. The counter ends about halfway back, behind which is more seating, starting with a round, four-person table against the right-hand wall. There’s another round, four-person table on the left, beyond the six two-person tables. Finally, a padded bench runs the full width of the back wall with five small, round, two-person tables in front of it. It’s an elegant space, full of dark wood and wall tiles, with the only natural light coming from windows behind the counter and the open front of the store.
Since Maruyama operates a full table service, you only need to go to the counter to pay before you leave. However, in many ways it’s the focal feature of the coffee shop, particularly if you get one of the two-person tables opposite. There’s a large Nuova Simonelli espresso machine at the front of the counter, while the till is at the far end. In between the two, however, is the main attraction, a row of three syphons and their infrared heaters.
You’ll be seated by one of the staff, who’ll also give you a glass of water, a large, multi-page menu and a monthly newsletter which details all the single-origins that Maruyama has in stock. I counted 23 single-origins, spread across nine countries, plus eight blends, all of which are available through the cafetiere. If you want to try the syphon, there’s a more limited range of seven blends/single-origins, while there’s also a single-origin option on espresso.
On my first visit last year, Christopher and I decided to try the syphon coffee, Christopher going with the Birch Blend, which he really liked, while I selected a naturally-processed Bolivian coffee. This turned out to be a very clean cup, which really grew on me as it cooled, its fruity flavours coming to the fore. And, of course, we both enjoyed the spectacle of syphon.
On my return yesterday, I was on my own. I’d tried the samples at the front of the store, where a naturally-processed Brazilian coffee stood out, so I ordered a cafetiere of that, which was served in the cafetiere, a cup on the side. It was another coffee which grew on me as it cooled, the coffee feeling a little thin when warm, but developing nicely as the temperature dropped.
|1-22-6 MIDORI • MINAMICHITOSE • NAGANO • 380-0823 • JAPAN|
|www.maruyamacoffee.com||+81 (0) 26-217-6690|
|Monday||10:00 – 20:00||Roaster||Maruyama (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||10:00 – 20:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||10:00 – 20:00||Food||Cakes, Sandwiches|
|Thursday||10:00 – 20:00||Service||Table|
|Friday||10:00 – 20:00||Cards||Yes|
|Saturday||10:00 – 20:00||Wifi||Free (with login)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 20:00||Power||No|
|Chain||Regional||Visits||22nd October 2018, 27th August 2019|
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