Nozy Coffee

A classic white diner mug with the Nozy Coffee logo on the sideNozy Coffee is a well-established name in Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene which I discovered at the lovely Nem Coffee & Espresso during my first visit in April 2017 before visiting its coffee shop/roastery (The Roastery by Nozy, which is under different ownership) on my return during 2018’s heatwave, when I sought refuge in its cool, basement-like interior. The Roastery is a very recent development, while Nozy itself has been going much longer, as I discovered when I visited its original coffee shop (which also used to be the roastery) in Setagaya City, southwest of Shibuya.

A tiny spot compared to The Roastery, Nozy Coffee occupies the ground floor and open basement of a narrow, three-storey building with a residence above. Although small, and with very limited seating, it has an impressive array of coffee, with a choice of eight single-origins, one of which is decaf. These are all available as filter coffee through the cafetiere, while two (which change daily) are available on espresso, where the extremely concise menu offers espresso, Americano or cafe latte. These last two come in three sizes (small, medium and large) and can be had hot or iced. A selection of coffee kit and retail bags are also for sale.

December 2019: Nozy Coffee has closed for good and will be sadly missed. Thanks to Maja for the updated information.

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Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office

Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office, a welcome sight on a rainy day, just outside the northern entrance to Kanazawa Castle.Last summer I spent a few days in Kanazawa in Ishikawa on Japan’s northern coast, where I found a small, thriving speciality coffee scene, not least the excellent Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office. Both a coffee shop and roastery, it’s just outside the northern entrance to Kanazawa Castle, making it the ideal spot for a pre- or post-sightseeing coffee.

It’s part of the Caravanserai Coffeeshop, which has been going since 1980 in the nearby Omicho market, with Kanazawaya Coffee Shop Head Office opening in 2011. As well as being a lovely coffee shop, spread over two floors with a small outside terrace and traditional Japanese sitting area, it’s also a roastery, with a 6 kg Giesen tucked in downstairs beside the counter.

In keeping with many Japanese coffee shops, full table service is offered, with a range of coffee on offer, backed up by a selection of cakes and snacks. As well as a concise espresso-based menu with the house-blend, there are five blends available on pour-over as well as five single-origins, with roast profiles ranging from light to dark. All the beans are available to buy in retail bags, along with a range of cups, coffee kit and hand-carved spoons.

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Verve Coffee Roasters, Kamakura

The window at the side of Verve Coffee Roasters in Kamakura Japan, which proudly states Verve's roots in Santa Cruz, California.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.

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Fuglen Asakusa

A Norwegian waffle, which I had for breakfast at Fuglen Asakusa, topped with a poached egg, spinach, salsa and avocado.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.

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Meet the Roaster: Onibus Coffee

My Colombian El Paraiso, a washed coffee, being made in a V60 at the new Onibus coffee shop/roastery in Yakumo, Tokyo.One of the things I’ve really enjoyed during my various visits to Japan is exploring its varied speciality coffee scene. There’s a strong, local tradition of roasting high-quality coffee, with an emphasis on darker roasts, epitomised by the likes of Maruyama Coffee and Sarutahiko Coffee Ebisu. However, in recent years, there’s an up-and-coming local scene where the emphasis is on lighter roasters led by the likes of today’s Meet the Roaster, Onibus Coffee.

Onibus Coffee is a small coffee shop/roaster chain in Tokyo. Its Nakameguro location was one of my first stops when I came to Japan in 2017, my first time in the country. Back then, it also housed the roaster, in a small space behind the counter, but with the business steadily growing, the cramped conditions were proving impractical, so Onibus relocated the roastery to a new, dedicated coffee shop/roastery in Meguro.

I visited the coffee shop in September, on the first of this year’s two trips to Japan, where I was offered a tour of the roastery, scheduled for my returned in November. I gratefully accepted, heading over to the roastery in Yakumo on my first morning in Tokyo, where head roaster, Yohei, showed me around.

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Curio Espresso and Vintage Design

Details of the sign from outside Curio Espresso and Vintage Design in Kanazawa.I did really well when I visited Kanazawa as part of the first of this year’s two Japanese trips. I’d chosen my hotel largely for its proximity to the castle (which I could see from my window), little realising that it was surrounded by a clutch of excellent coffee shops, one of which, Curio Espresso and Vintage Design, was visible from the other side of the hotel.

I was originally put on to Curio by Happy Cow, a site for finding vegetarian and vegan restaurants, which resulted in my heading to Curio for breakfast on my second day in Kanazawa. I then discovered that it had excellent coffee, serving an espresso-based menu using a bespoke house-blend from Kanazawa roaster Hiroyuki Arinobu of Ally Caffe. There’s also beer and wine for those so inclined.

Run by married couple Sol (Seattle) and Yuko (Kanazawa), Curio Espresso and Vintage Design is a friendly, welcoming place, beloved by locals and visitors alike. The food and coffee have a definite Seattle influence, while the vintage design part of the name (along with the “Curio” of the title) come from the décor, full of vintage items originally bought by Sol and Yuko to furnish their home!

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Stockholm Roast Update

A lovely espresso, served in a proper cup, which I had on the first day that Stockholm Roast in Tokyo re-opened as a standalone operation.Stockholm Roast, a street-side coffee operation inside the Tobacco Stand, was a chance discovery during my second visit to Tokyo in 2018. Due to its location (close enough to the office that I could reliably pop out and back during coffee breaks), very friendly staff and, of course, excellent coffee, Stockholm Roast became my go-to spot during that week.

It was another 11 months before I returned to Tokyo on the first of this year’s two visits. Imagine my disappointment when I turned up to the office for the first of two week-long meetings only to find that Stockholm Roast was closed! However, my disappointment was short-lived. The next day I noticed someone working in the kiosk and was relieved to learn that the closure was temporary. The Tobacco Stand, Stockholm Roast’s long-time host, had closed, with Stockholm Roast taking over the whole operation!

Two days later, on Thursday, 5th September, Stockholm Roast opened its doors as a stand-alone operation for the first time and, I’m pleased to say, I was the very first customer!

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Little Nap Coffee Roasters

Detail from the sign on the wall: Little Nap Coffee RoastersI discovered Little Nap, the Tokyo-based coffee shop/roaster chain (of precisely two locations) when I visited the original, Little Nap Coffee Stand, in the summer of 2018. During that trip I also popped over to the second location, Little Nap Coffee Roasters, a short, 10-minute walk to the southwest. However, for various reasons, I never managed to write it up, so last week, on my most recent trip, I returned to check that nothing had changed.

Little Nap occupies a narrow, three-storey, standalone building on the south side of the busy highway which runs through the southern end of Yoyogi Park to the east. Downstairs, at the front, is a compact coffee shop, while at the back is an equally compact roastery. The first floor is home to the Little Nap Record Shop and, during my visit in 2018, hosted a pop-up kitchen, while the top floor is a gallery with rotating displays.

Little Nap serves a house-blend from a concise, espresso-based menu, with four seasonal single-origins on pour-over (hot or cold), with all the coffee available to buy in retail bags. There’s also a small range of sandwiches and hot dogs, plus a selection of cakes if you’re hungry.

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Breather Coffee

The Breather Coffee logo from the curbside sign outside the shop in Zushi, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan.Breather Coffee, in Zushi in Kanagawa prefecture, was a recommendation from Dark Arts Coffee in nearby Hayama, who I visited while on my way to Tokyo during my recent trip to Japan in August/September this year. Occupying a small spot right in the centre of town, Breather Coffee is a five-minute walk from the station, making it an easy option if you’re reliant on public transport.

Run by a lovely, friendly Japanese couple, Kohei and Mizuho, Breather Coffee uses Melbourne roasters, Maker Coffee, a legacy of the five years that Kohei and Mizuho spent in Melbourne (which also accounts for their excellent English). You’ll find the Smith Blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a single-origin option, plus another on pour-over through the V60. The single-origins change on a weekly basis and are also available in retail bags. If you’re hungry, there are western-style cakes and a couple of toasties.

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Blue Monday

A lovely espresso, made with the house-blend at Blue Monday in Kanazawa and served in a glass, on a patterned glass saucer.I was in luck during my time in Kanazawa, where I stayed for three days, part of the week I spent travelling around Japan at the end of August this year. I’d gone on the recommendation of my friend Christopher, but this was more with a view to being a tourist. The fact that I found so much great coffee, most of it within a few minutes of my hotel, was a bonus.

Blue Monday was the exception, since it’s not near my hotel. Instead, it’s close to Kanazawa station, making it a perfect introduction to the city (and a good last call before catching your train). Located in the Porte basement shopping complex under the Hotel Nikko, it offers espresso-based drinks, using a bespoke house-blend, plus herbal tea, hot dogs, toast, soft-serve ice cream and mini-doughnuts. If you want to stay, there’s no seating, but there are proper cups.

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