Japan’s speciality coffee scene is an interesting blend of homegrown roasters/coffee shops, plus a generous sprinkling of overseas names. Perhaps the most intriguing of these (for me, at least) is Fuglen, the Norwegian design company, which first opened its doors in Oslo in 1963. These days, Fuglen blends vintage design with coffee (daytime) and cocktails (evening) from its Oslo café/bar, a recipe which, since 2012, it has successfully copied in Tokyo, with a small and perpetually busy café/bar in Shibuya.
This was followed, in 2014, by a roastery/coffee shop (since relocated to larger premises) and, in September last year, by a much larger café/bar in Asakusa. Spread over two floors, it opens from first thing in the morning until last thing at night, offering breakfast, lunch, cakes, coffee and cocktails, all within a setting heavily influenced by vintage Norwegian design.
All the coffee’s roasted in-house, with a seasonal single-origin espresso, plus multiple filter options, available as pour-over (through the V60), Aeropress or batch-brew. There’s also a tasting flight, with an espresso, batch-brew and your choice of beans through the Aeropress. I visited twice, once in October 2018, a month after it opened, and a year later in November this year.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
I discovered Fuglen when I visited its then roastery/coffee shop in the summer of 2018. Sadly, shortly after I published the piece, I discovered that roastery had closed as a coffee shop, subsequently moving to new, larger premises. Part of the reason for the move was Fuglen’s second (and very successful) café/bar in Asakusa, which required a step-change in output from the roastery.
Fuglen Asakusa is just west of Sensō-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, and shares a building with a Nine Hours Capsule Hotel, although (unlike Glitch Coffee Brewed) the two businesses are completely independent, with separate entrances. Fuglen is long and thin, the narrow end facing a wide, pedestrianised street, sloping left-to-right by 30°. The main entrance is here, but there’s a second entrance down a side-street to the right (past the entrance to the Nine Hours hotel). You can sit outside if you like, on one of several benches with in-built coffee tables.
Inside, Fuglen is a bright, open space, with floor-to-ceiling windows along the front and right-hand side. Two-person window-bars flank the central door, which has a broad wooden step down to the smooth, concrete floor. Retail shelves line the left-hand wall, then comes the counter, occupying the remainder of the left-hand wall, starting with cake and till, followed by the coffee and an open kitchen at the far end.
There’s a limited amount of seating in the centre of the room, with further window-bars along the right-hand side. At the back, a spiral staircase leads upstairs, while to the left, a long corridor leads past the kitchen to a back room with more of a lounge-like feel. There’s a pair of armchairs in the window, next to Fuglen’s side entrance, along with a pair of communal tables, one against the back wall and the other in the back, left-hand corner.
Upstairs is also long and thin, but smaller than the equivalent space downstairs. The spiral staircase is at the back, with windows along the right-hand side and at the front, which slopes left-to-right at 45°. This too has more lounge-style seating, with a solitary armchair to the left and a pair of armchairs across a coffee table on the right as you look towards the front. Beyond a pillar on the left are two two-person sofas, one facing forwards, the other with its back to the windows. Finally, right at the front, three armchairs surround a coffee table.
Both my visits to Fuglen, separated by a year, were for breakfast, where Fuglen offers a small selection of pastries and four different variations of Norwegian waffle (which are thinner and more savoury than their classic American counterparts). On my first visit, I had my waffle with scrambled eggs and spinach, while on my return, it was topped with a poached egg, spinach, salsa and avocado.
On both occasions, I paired my waffle with a very fine cappuccino, with a fruity underlying espresso (a Colombian in 2018, this year a Brazilian), both of which came strongly through the milk, but without being at odds with it.
On my first visit, I followed my breakfast with a V60 of a Kenyan single-origin and a cardamom bun. The latter was excellent, as much savoury as sweet, while the pour-over was a smooth and subtle coffee, the perfect accompaniment to my bun.
|2-6-15 ASAKUSA • TAITO-KU • TOKYO • 111-0032 • JAPAN|
|https://fuglen-asakusa.business.site||+81 (0) 3-5811-1756|
|Monday||07:00 – 22:00||Roaster||Fuglen (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 22:00||Seating||Tables, Window-bars; Benches (outside)|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 01:00||Food||Breakfast, Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 01:00||Service||Counter (Coffee), Order at Counter (Food)|
|Friday||07:00 – 02:00||Payment||Cash + Cards|
|Saturday||07:00 – 02:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||07:00 – 22:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||International||Visits||20th October 2018, 4th November 2019|
If you 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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