I spent last week in the Bay Area, not far from Santa Cruz, home of Verve Coffee Roasters, which I visited almost exactly three years ago, in 2017. The following year it was the turn of Verve in Omotesando, Tokyo and then, last year, I managed to visit Verve in both Los Angeles (Spring Street) and San Francisco (Market Street). I was happily congratulating myself on having visited Verve in every city where it has a presence when I realised that one of its Japanese coffee shops was in Kamakura rather than Tokyo. Damn! So, when I headed back to Japan in September that year, I took a day trip to Kamakura. Naturally, I popped into Verve for coffee.
If you’re familiar with Verve, then the coffee offering will come as no surprise. There’s the Streetlevel seasonal blend on espresso, joined by a single-origin and decaf, while on filter, Verve has a blend on batch brew and five single-origins, plus decaf on pour-over. There’s also my favourite, the one-and-one, plus a coffee flight, where you can compare three of the pour-over options side-by-side. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, you can choose from three savoury waffles, three sweet waffles and three toast-based dishes.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Verve is on Yukinoshita, the main thoroughfare, which runs in a straight line all the way from the waterfront, to Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, an important Shinto shrine. Verve is at the northern end of Yukinoshita, on the right-hand side as you approach the temple, and is a short walk from Kamakura Station (under an hour from central Tokyo, with multiple trains per hour).
It occupies a single, open space on the ground floor of a modern, concrete building, while the front, which faces onto Yukinoshita, is almost all glass. There’s a large pair of glass double doors to the left of a central pillar, while on the right, there’s a set of four windows that can fold all the way back. To the left of the doors is a small takeaway window, while around the corner on the left-hand side, there’s a large window towards the front.
There’s plenty of outdoor seating, including a bench under the window on the left-hand side, another bench and a bucket seat under the takeaway window and two long benches with three coffee tables by the broad windowsill to the right of the central pillar.
Inside, the space is effectively split into two, the pillar at the front being joined to a broad, square pillar midway back by a set of retail shelves which runs most of the way between the two pillars. To the left of this is the counter, while the bulk of the seating is to the right, starting in the window to the right of the door, where the broad windowsill acts as a bench, connecting with the outside when the windows are open. Small stools act as coffee tables/additional seating, while there’s also a chair along with some coffee tables. The windowsill connects to a bench which continues along the whole of the right-hand wall, with a large extension projecting into the room halfway along, opposite the central pillar (this reminded me of Spring Street). There are four small, round tables between the window and the extension, with four more beyond that.
There’s more seating in the form of three communal tables. The first is a four-person table between the retail shelves and bench against the right-hand wall, with a sofa on one side and two armchairs on the other. The second table, which seats six, is at the back on the right, opposite the rear part of the bench, while the third, also seating six, is in the middle of the back wall. There’s one more seating area, a low, tiled, wooden-topped extension behind the central pillar acting as a broad, three-sided bench with low coffee tables and stools.
In true Japanese style, you are greeted at door to see if you are staying in, in which case you’re given a menu and shown to a seat (although you return to counter to order). I liked the interior of Verve, although it was a very noisy space, with no sound dampening at all. It became extremely loud when it was busy, with everyone talking, raising their voices to be heard over the background noise (the person with the barking dog didn’t help). However, it was significantly quieter later in the afternoon when it was less busy.
I was there for lunch, ordering the mushroom toast, which was magnificent. A long, thin slice of toast, topped with a generous layer of cream cheese and with a veritable mountain of sliced mushrooms, which must have required a forest of mushrooms to produce, it was extremely tasty. There was also a large side salad with a punchy vinaigrette dressing.
All the coffee is roasted in Santa Cruz and flown to Japan, where it is available to buy in retail bags. Normally I would order a one-and-one, but I was drawn to the coffee flight (one of several on that trip). I was given free reign from the five single-origins, picking the Costa Rican, exclusive to Verve in Japan, the Guatemalan and the Kenyan, all of which were washed coffees.
Each coffee came in a glass, served on a long, rectangular tray, each with a small square of cardboard offering tasting notes (everyone gets one with their coffee; naturally, I received three). The Costa Rican and Guatemalan were both very smooth and well-balanced, while the Kenyan immediately stood out, with typical Kenyan fruitiness, maturing nicely as it cooled, with more fruity notes coming through. In contrast, the two central Americans were harder to distinguish: both were very fine, but neither stood out to my unrefined palate.
Just as I was leaving, I proudly explained to the staff that I’d come to Kamakura so I could visit all the cities where Verve had coffee shops, only to learn that between my visiting Los Angeles and San Francisco earlier that year, Verve had opened in new coffee shop in Palo Alto. I swear that they are doing this deliberately! However, I spent this first week of 2020 in the Bay Area, so was able to rectify the situation…
|1-10-8 YUKINOSHITA • KAMAKURA • KANAGAWA • 248-0005 • JAPAN|
|www.vervecoffee.jp||+81 (0) 467-84-8851|
|Monday||09:00 – 19:00||Roaster||Verve (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 19:00||Seating||Tables; Chairs (outside)|
|Wednesday||09:00 – 19:00||Food||Cakes, Waffles, Toast|
|Thursday||09:00 – 19:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||09:00 – 19:00||Payment||Cards, Cash|
|Saturday||09:00 – 19:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 19:00||Power||No|
|Chain||International||Visits||7th September 2019|
You can also see what I made of all the other Verve Coffee Roasters locations that I’ve visited.
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