Blue Bottle Coffee at Shinagawa Station is its sixth (of currently 14) locations in Tokyo, opening at the end of 2016, just after the Nakameguro branch. I discovered it on my first visit to Japan in April 2017, when I based myself near the station, catching the bullet trains on a daily basis as I explored Japan. As a result, it became a regular calling point first thing in the morning, with a pre-departure cappuccino to go in my SoL Cup. Since then, I’ve made a point of popping by whenever I’m changing trains in the station (which, admittedly, hasn’t been very often).
Despite being a station coffee shop, Blue Bottle, following the best traditions of Japanese station coffee shops such as Ogawa Coffee at Kyoto Station and Maruyama Coffee at Nagano Station, has a full offering in line with most other Blue Bottle locations in the city, although it lacks the extensive food offerings of the Aoyama coffee shop. The seasonal Hayes Valley blend is on espresso, along with a regularly-changing single-origin, while there’s a dedicated filter blend, different a single-origin and decaf on pour-over. There’s also a strong retail offering, plus a small range of cakes and snacks.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Shinagawa is on Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka line, a few minutes south of Tokyo station. The station is a two-part affair, the older station to the west, serving the local lines, while the bullet trains (Shinkansen) have their own dedicated platforms and gates at the eastern side. This is where you’ll find Blue Bottle Coffee, in the Atré shopping centre, occupying a prime spot directly above the main east-west walkway connecting the different parts of the station.
Access is via an escalator to your left (coming from the main entrance in the old station), just past the Shinkansen gates. Turn right at the top and Blue Bottle’s directly ahead. Long and thin, it runs the full width of the (very wide) walkway. The front is all glass, overlooking the walkway, occupied by a long 15-person window-bar. The counter is behind that, occupying maybe two-thirds of the width, while the remainder of the seating is on the right, a thin, eight-person bar running front-to-back and four two-person tables beyond that against the right-hand wall.
You enter at the back left, facing the left-hand side of the counter, occupied by the tills and the cake. If you just want to buy beans, there’s a separate retail counter to your right at the front of Blue Bottle, just before the window-bar. Once you’ve ordered, move around and along the front of the counter, past the La Marzocco FB80 espresso machine and line of Blue Bottle drippers, each on its own in-built scale, to the end of the counter where you wait for your coffee. Alternatively, if you’re sitting in, take a seat and wait for your name to be called so you can return to collect your coffee.
On my first visits in 2017, Blue Bottle only offered takeaway cups, even when you were sitting in, but these days, you have a choice of a proper cup. My first few visits were for a cappuccino to go in my SoL Cup, which I was road-testing at the time. While I’m not a great fan of the Hayes Valley blend as a straight espresso, it goes superbly well in milk, and I had some excellent rich, smooth cappuccinos on that trip.
One thing I did notice, however, is that even at stations, takeaway service at Japanese speciality coffee shops isn’t quick. It’s not that the service is slow per se, just very accurate and deliberate, which can be infuriating when rushing for a train. As an example, on one visit, I handed my cup over, which needed rinsing. In the UK or US, this would probably be a quick squirt with the milk jug washer or, if I’m lucky, a top-up from the hot water on the espresso machine. But in Blue Bottle my cup was taken to the sink, washed up properly, then dried with a tea-towel before being brought back to the espresso machine. To be clear, I admire the attention to detail, but don’t come here for a coffee if your train is leaving in five minutes!
On my return last weekend, I discovered that decaf had been added to the pour-over menu so, since it was late in the evening and I wasn’t rushing for a train (I’d just returned from a day-trip to Kamakura), I decided to try it. I was a little worried since everyone in Japan tends to roast a shade darker and what decaf I’ve seen has mostly been really, really dark. I didn’t see the beans, but in the cup, it’s clearly a medium roast, with plenty of body and overall a very fine cup of coffee.
I was also hungry but didn’t want anything sweet, nor too substantial since I was having dinner at my hotel. Instead, I had a bowl of granola, which really hit the spot. An excellent end to an excellent day!
|2-18-1 KONAN • MINATO-KU • TOKYO • 108-0075 • JAPAN|
|Monday||08:00 – 22:00||Roaster||Blue Bottle (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 22:00||Seating||Window-bar, Tables, Standing Bar|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 22:00||Food||Cake, Sandwiches|
|Thursday||08:00 – 22:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 22:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||10:00 – 22:00||Wifi||Free (with registration)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 22:00||Power||No|
|Chain||International||Visits||24, 27th April 2017, 7th September 2019|
Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Tokyo.
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