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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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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Onibus Coffee, Yakumo

My Colombian El Paraiso, a washed coffee, being made in a V60 at the new Onibus coffee shop/roastery in Yakumo, Tokyo.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, a cosy arrangement given how small the place was. However, on my return to Tokyo in September this year, I discovered that the roaster was gone, relocated to a new coffee shop/roastery in Meguro, so I headed over there to check it out.

The new coffee shop/roastery is Onibus’ fifth location, joining About Life Coffee Brewers and Ratio &C, plus the original location in Okusawa, which, in true Coffee Spot fashion, I’ve yet to visit! The coffee shop is a similar size to the Nakameguro coffee shop, but the roastery, which has its own Meet the Roaster feature, is in a much bigger space to the left.

The coffee shop, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, has the usual Onibus offering, with a several (five or six) single-origins available on both pour-over and espresso, where they are joined by the Step blend. If you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes, all baked in-house.

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Glitch Coffee Brewed @ 9h

Glitch Coffee Brewed, from the wall behind the counter, with the Glitch Coffee logo above and the Nine Hours hotel logo below.I first came across Tokyo’s Glitch Coffee & Roasters on my around the world trip in 2018. Then, I knew it as a small coffee shop/roaster, with a passion for light roasts and filter coffee. When I returned to Tokyo in September this year, I learnt that there was a second branch of Glitch, in Asakaka, closer to my hotel, so on my final day in Tokyo, I set out to explore.

Glitch Coffee Brewed is in the basement lobby of Nine Hours, a newly-opened capsule hotel, both hotel and coffee shop having opened in May this year. There’s not much seating, just nine stools at a U-shaped counter, with a bench inside and another outside. It doubles down on Glitch Coffee & Roasters’ filter obsession, only offering pour-over (via the V60), with a similar range of beans and tasting flights. If you can’t wait, there’s also batch-brew during the week.

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Dark Arts Coffee Japan

The familiar Dark Arts Coffee logo, but in Hayama rather than Hackney.I first discovered Dark Arts as a roaster, enjoying its coffee at various places, including London’s The Black Chapel, Chester’s Little Yellow Pig and Manchester’s Idle Hands and Siop Shop. This summer, after much patient encouragement on twitter from Mike Stanbridge, I finally visited I Will Kill Again, Dark Arts’ coffee shop/roastery in Homerton in East London. That safely out of the way, I thought I’d collect the full set, using trip to Japan in August/September this year to visit Dark Arts’ Japanese outpost in Hayama, a small town in the Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo.

Like I Will Kill Again, this is a coffee shop/roastery which opened in July 2018, although the Probat roaster was only installed in April this year. Prior to that, the coffee was imported from the UK roastery. The offering will be very familiar to anyone used to Dark Arts Coffee, with the likes of Lost Highway on espresso. This, like its UK counterpart, is a single-origin Nicaraguan, and while it has a similar taste profile, it’s a different bean. The coffee menu, meanwhile, is more typically Japanese, with plenty of iced options and various coffee cocktails. There’s also an all-day, western brunch menu, complete with specials.

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Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden

Details from the curtains hanging in the door of Bread, Espresso & Arashiyama Garden, Kyoto, showing a man pouring latte art.I first discovered Bread, Espresso & when I visited in its original Omotesandō location. Conveniently located a short walk from my hotel in Tokyo, it became a regular weekend brunch spot on that and subsequent visits. While I knew there multiple locations in Tokyo and, increasingly, around the country, I was unaware that Bread, Espresso & had opened in Kyoto, until I was alerted by the lovely baristas at % Arabica in Arashiyama. It was timely advice, since I was looking for breakfast (% Arabica only serves coffee) and Bread, Espresso & was a mere five-minute walk away!

Kyoto has some amazing coffee shops in outstanding locations and Bread, Espresso & can be added to the list. It occupies a restored 200-year-old traditional Japanese farmhouse and associated buildings, set in a small compound. There’s a café in the farmhouse, the majority of the seating at traditional, low tables, while a separate takeaway bakery occupies another building.

Bread, Espresso & very much does what the name suggests. There are excellent (bread-based) breakfast and lunch menus, along with a selection of cakes, all baked on the premises, plus a concise, espresso-based coffee offering, all coupled with the usual high standard Japanese service.

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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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