Unlimited Coffee Bar

Detail taken from a bag of coffee from Tokyo's Unlimited Coffee Roasters.Unlimited Coffee Bar is almost directly under Tokyo’s famous 643m tall Skytree, which, since 2012, has been Japan’s tallest structure and the world’s tallest tower. Located just across the canal, opposite the Skytree’s southwest corner, it’s an ideal stopping off point for coffee (or lunch/dinner) either before or after taking in the magnificent views across Tokyo from the Skytree’s two observation decks. I’ve visited twice, once during my around the world trip last year, and again earlier this week on my current trip, both times calling in for coffee after a trip up the tower.

In contrast to the soaring tower, Unlimited Coffee Bar, an offshoot of Unlimited Coffee Roasters, is a much more modest affair, at least in terms of its physical extent, occupying the ground floor of a small, three storey building. The unlimited part refers to the coffee, with a selection of five or six single-origins, all roasted in-house, two of which are available on espresso, three on cold brew and all on pour-over via Aeropress, Silverton dripper or V60. Various tasting flights are offered, along with coffee cocktails, while all the beans are available in retail bags. Finally, for somewhere so small, there’s an impressive food menu.

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Café Névé, Rachel

A lovely cortado, in a glass, made with the house-blend at Café Névé on Rue Rachel in Montréal.Monday’s Coffee Spot is a flashback to exactly one year ago today, when, on my first weekend in Montréal, first stop on my around-the-world trip, I had breakfast at Café Névé on Rue Rachel, just around the corner from my apartment. I would go on to visit a further six times, four for morning coffee on my way to the office, and twice more for breakfast.

This is the original Café Névé which, having opened in 2009, was around during my first visit to Montréal in 2012. Back then there were just two Café Névés (the second on Avenue Mont-Royal), but since then it’s added a third, with the opening of a shared space in the Mile End district of Montréal inside the Frank and Oak menswear boutique.

It’s hugely popular and busy, a real neighbourhood favourite, open from breakfast in the morning until nine at night, seven days a week. There’s a standard espresso-based menu, with a bespoke house-blend, roasted by Anchored Coffee, with a batch brew option from Anchored or Zab Cafe, a local roaster with connections to Café Névé. There’s also a choice of eight teas, four smoothies, and, if you’re hungry, cakes, sandwiches and an excellent brunch menu.

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Tasting Flights at Glitch Coffee

A tasting flight of three single-origin filters at Glitch Coffee & Roasters in Tokyo.Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene is incredibly varied, ranging from international brands and traditional kissaten to small, home-grown coffee shop/roasters, absorbing global influences to forge their own identities. Yesterday’s Coffee Spot, Glitch Coffee & Roasters, definitely falls into the latter category and is one of the most innovative coffee shops that I’ve visited in Tokyo. Best of all, it’s served me some truly outstanding coffee, the subject of today’s Saturday Supplement.

Glitch roasts on a 5kg Probat, tucked away on the right-hand side of the coffee shop in full view of the customers. Concentrating on lightly-roasted single-origins, two of which are on espresso, the real star is the pour-over. There’s a row V60s along the front of the counter, each with a glass jar of beans and a card giving tasting notes and details of the origin.

While you can order by the cup, I was drawn to the tasting flights, which allow you to try two or three of the single-origin pour-overs (chosen by Glitch) side-by-side. So drawn, in fact, that today’s post is all about the two tasting flights I’ve had, the first in 2018 and the other last weekend at the end of my most recent trip.

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Glitch Coffee & Roasters

The Glitch Coffee & Roasters logo from the wall next to the roaster.If you take a look at my coffee map of Tokyo, you’ll see that it’s strongly focused on Shibuya, Omotesandō and Aoyama, where I’ve spent most of my time, usually for work. Today’s Coffee Spot, Glitch Coffee & Roasters, is, in that sense, unusual. A well-established roastery/coffee shop, it’s located in Jimbōchō, just to the north of the Imperial Palace gardens, with a recently-opened second location, Glitch Coffee Brewed, in the Nine Hours capsule hotel in Akasaka.

Like many of Tokyo’s speciality coffee shop/roasters, Glitch Coffee & Roasters is a pretty small affair, with the roaster, a 5kg Probat, in the actual coffee shop on the right-hand side, in full view of the customers. Although a pair of single-origins are available on espresso, the focus is firmly on pour-over, where a further selection of single-origins (typically five or six) are available through the V60. All the beans are, naturally, available in retail bags, with Glitch specialising in light roasts.

Of particular interest to me were the tasting flights, where you can try two or three of the single-origin pour-overs (chosen by Glitch) side-by-side. A recent addition is the Geisha tasting flight, where you can compare two Geishas, again as pour-overs.

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Maruyama Single Origin

Detail from the sign above the door of Maruyama Coffee's branch in Nishi AzabuIf you’ve been keeping up with my adventures in Japan over the last two years, you’ll know that Maruyama Coffee, the regional chain from Nagano prefecture, holds a special place in my heart. My first ever coffee in Japan was at Maruyama in Nishi Azabu, while more recently I’ve visited Maruyama in Nagano Station. Today’s Coffee Spot is Maruyama Single Origin, a relatively recent addition, which opened last year in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighbourhood.

Maruyama Single Origin occupies a small, two-storey building, with downstairs serving retail/takeaway customers, while upstairs offers Maruyama’s traditional full table service. You get the usual Maruyama excellence, but with the twist that the store only serves single-origins, with a daily option on espresso and the full range (usually around 30 single-origins, from up to 10 different countries, including several exclusive to the store) available through syphon and cafetiere.

If anything, the focus is even more firmly on the coffee, with delights such as an espresso and cappuccino set and, a new one on me, the same espresso served in two different cups. Perhaps as compensation for this, there’s a reduced food offering compared to the other locations, with just a small selection of cakes, plus toast.

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Foret Coffee

A cartoon figure of a man making a pour-over from the side of my mug at Foret Coffee, Nagano.Foret Coffee was the third of the three coffee shops my friend and local guide, Christopher, took me to when I visited Nagano last year, along with Hirano Coffee and Maruyama. When I passed through Nagano earlier this week, with a little bit of time to kill, I decided to pay Foret another visit, having enjoyed it so much last time (I would have revisited Hirano as well, but it closes on Tuesdays, the day I was there).

Foret is very much in the third-wave mould, a coffee shop/roaster (the coffee is roasted off-site) with a simple shop, occupying a sparsely-decorated concrete shell, with the counter on the right and the seating on the left. Unusually for Japan, it also caters to the takeaway market, with a separate takeaway window at the front of the counter, so you can get your coffee to go without setting foot inside.

Foret has a simple espresso-based menu using a seasonal espresso-blend, while if you want filter, there’s a wide selection of single-origins to choose from, conveniently segregated into light/medium roasts and dark roasts. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of scones and cookies, all baked on the open range behind the counter.

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Maruyama Coffee, Nagano Station

A syphon at Maruyama Coffee in Nagano Station, warming on the infrared heater after brewing.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.

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Hirano Coffee

My coffee, a V60 of a Guatemalan single-origin, reflecting the greenery in Hirano Coffee, Nagano.Greetings from Japan, where I’m back in the mountains in the Nagano Prefecture, escaping the heat and humidity for a week before returning to Tokyo for two weeks of meetings! Since I’m here, I thought it was high time that I wrote up some of the Coffee Spots that my friend Christopher took me to when I was last in Nagano, in October last year, starting with Hirano Coffee.

Hirano isn’t that easy to find, tucked away in the back streets just south of the Zenkō-ji Temple, but it’s worth seeking out. A coffee shop/roastery, it occupies both floors of a two-storey house which looks and feels (to me at least) like a small, traditional Japanese dwelling, reminding me of & Espresso and Nem Coffee & Espresso. You can sit downstairs with the counter and roaster for company, or in the glorious upstairs.

All the coffee is roasted on the 5kg Fuji Royal behind the counter, and there’s a choice of five single-origins and five blends, plus a small selection of cakes and toast if you’re hungry. If you’re looking for espresso though, you’ve come to the wrong place, since Hirano only serves pour-over using a traditional cloth filter or V60.

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Stockholm Roast, Tokyo

The Stockholm Roast logo from the wall on the Tobacco Stand in Tokyo.Stockholm Roast was a chance discovery on my way to the office during the second of my two trips to Tokyo in 2018. At the time, it was inside the Tobacco Stand, an old-fashioned smoke shack, for want of a better word, but this closed in September 2019, with Stockholm Roast taking over as a standalone operation.

There’s not much to Stockholm Roast, just a small, square kiosk with a couple of stools inside at the counter, plus two tables, a wooden sofa and an armchair outside in a sheltered seating area. There are a pair of takeaway windows, one here, the other on the street, with a handful of stools, but otherwise that’s it.

Stockholm Roast gets its coffee from the roaster of the same name in Sweden, with the Transatlantic Blend on espresso, all the shots pulled on a La Marzocco Linea Mini espresso machine. This is joined by another blend (Tokyo) and two or three single-origins on pour-over, while if you’re hungry, there’s a daily selection of fresh cakes and pastries.

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Verve Omotesando

Barista skills in action: pouring two Kalita Wave filters simultaneously at Verve Coffee Roasters in Omotesando, Tokyo.Verve Coffee Roasters started life in Santa Cruz, California, before spreading north to San Francisco, south to Los Angeles and then across the Pacific to Japan, with two branches in Tokyo and another in Kamakura. I first came across Verve as a roaster in Café Plume (now Paquebot Mont-Royal) in Montréal, before visiting Verve’s flagship branch on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. The original Tokyo branch is in Shinjuku, a loud, busy place which I briefly visited in July. The second branch, subject of today’s Coffee Spot, opened in April this year. A much more relaxed basement affair under the Rag & Bone Store in Omotesando, I visited twice, first in July, and again on my return in October.

Although a basement, it’s a fairly bright spot. There’s space for a counter down one side, with seating opposite, plus a small seating area at the back. There’s the usual Verve offering, with a blend and daily single-origin on espresso, plus multiple single-origins on pour-over through the Kalita Wave. All the coffee, which is roasted in Santa Cruz and air-freighted over, is available to buy in retail bags. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of waffles, all made to order.

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