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.
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 is in a large space to the left, is much bigger and will have its own Meet the Roaster feature in due course.
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.
If 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.
Stockholm Roast was a chance discovery on my way to the office during my most recent trip to Tokyo. It’s located inside the Tobacco Stand, an old-fashioned smoke shack, for want of a better word, which makes its living by selling tobacco, etc. Although in this case, it’s tobacco and speciality coffee. The Tobacco Stand has been going for four years, but it was only last year that it upped its coffee game, installing a La Marzocco Mini espresso machine and sourcing coffee from Stockholm Roast. There’s a blend on espresso and three/four single-origins on pour-over, all roasted in the Swedish capital and air-freighted to Japan.
There’s not much to the Tobacco Stand, just a small, square kiosk with three stools inside at the counter, plus a table outside in a sheltered seating area. There are a pair of takeaway windows, one here, the other on the street, but otherwise that’s it. Be warned: if you don’t like tobacco smoke, this may not be the place for you since customers smoke both inside and out.
Lattest, the self-style Omotesando Espresso Bar, is in good company, Omotesando being the home of several excellent coffee shops, including Sarutahiko Coffee, Ratio &C and, of course, Koffee Mameya. It’s also across the street from Bread, Espresso &, where I had started my current Tokyo coffee adventures the day before. It also helps that Lattest is a few minutes’ walk from both my hotel and my office for this trip.
Lattest began in 2012 and now boasts six branches, this being the original. There’s an evening espresso/alcohol bar in Azabujuban, a bag/shoe shop across the road (but not coffee) and three coffee/bike shops, continuing the long association between espresso and cycling. Two are in Tokyo, with the third in Kyoto.
Lattest does pretty much what the name says, serving a range of espresso-based drinks, including the synonymous “lattest”, an espresso shot over cold milk. All the coffee is roasted in-house, originally on the roaster in Glitch Coffee, but now at its own dedicated roastery. There are two single-origins on espresso, plus three others roasted for filter and available to buy in retail bags. During the week, you can order pour-over, plus there’s a small selection of other drinks, a handful of cakes and a toasted sandwich option if you want something more savoury.
Bread, Espresso & pretty much does what the name says, serving bread-based dishes, espresso-based drinks and a few other things from its original store in Omotesandō, a bustling district that’s seen the birth of some of Tokyo’s best coffee. So successful has it been that there are now 16 branches dotted around Tokyo and beyond, including a pair of new locations in Kyoto (which opened in the summer of 2019).
I’ll be honest: Omotesandō has many great coffee options and, as such, Bread, Espresso & is not somewhere I come for the coffee alone. That said, in a city where the non-speciality coffee can frequently be disappointing, Bread, Espresso &’s coffee has always been spot-on, plus it makes an excellent breakfast (until 10:00) and lunch spot, as well as a take-away bakery. There’s not a lot of seating, but for both my visits, table turn-over was high and the staff will always fit you in if possible.
Blue Bottle Coffee is something of an institution in California, with numerous outlets in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. From its base, Blue Bottle has spread both east, with branches on the east coast, ranging from Miami to Boston, and west, where it’s crossed the Pacific Ocean to Japan, with branches in Kobo, Kyoto and as of 2019, fourteen in Tokyo.
My relationship with Blue Bottle in the US has been a bit hit and miss, liking some places, but not others. However, based on my limited experience in Tokyo, I’m smitten by Blue Bottle in Japan. The branch in Aoyama was around the corner from my office when I visited in April last year, one of a cluster of excellent coffee shops, all within easy walking distance of the office, that include Japanese café/roaster Sarutahiko Coffee and two further foreign-influenced coffee shops, Coutume and Café Kitsuné, both of whom have their roots in Paris.
Blue Bottle serves a single-origin and blend on espresso, with another single-origin and blend on pour-over, plus two more single-origins on syphon. There’s also a concise breakfast/lunch menu and a selection of cakes. Of all the places I visited in Japan, it is the most American in terms of service and style.
The delightful Nem Coffee & Espresso is definitely the hidden gem of Tokyo’s speciality coffee scene. Located south of the Arisugawa-no-miya Memorial Park, Nem is tucked away down a narrow, pedestrian alley, so much so that you think you’re walking into a residential neighbourhood to visit someone’s house, which is not as far from the truth as it seems. The coffee shop is on the ground floor of an old house, painstakingly renovated/converted by the owners, a married couple who live upstairs, Nem opening for business in May 2016. The result is a small, but delightful space, with windows front and back, with a very Japanese feel to the architecture, but a very western feel to the coffee shop itself.
Talking of coffee, Nem has a concise menu, drinks split between “black” and “with milk”. There’s a house-blend on espresso (from Switch Coffee Roasters) and two single-origins plus a decaf (from Nozy Coffee) on filter through the cafetiere (hot) or Kalita Wave (cold). There’s also tea and hot chocolate, plus a small food menu, with a choice of two cakes. Small is definitely the name of the game at Nem, with all the food being cooked to order in a compact, open kitchen behind the counter.
Sarutahiko Coffee is a small, but growing, coffee shop/roaster chain in Tokyo. This branch shares space with a bookshop and travel agent in HIS, a multi-level shop on a quiet street near my office, one of several excellent coffee options within a five minutes’ walk. It’s also another recommendation from the Commodities Connoisseur (although he visited the flagship Ebisu branch).
Sarutahiko roasts all its own coffee, a considerable selection of which is on sale at the Omotesandō branch. There is a variety of espresso-based drinks, either hot or over ice, while there’s a large range of single-origins (six) and blends (five) available as pour-over using the V60. Although there’s plenty of seating, the Omotesandō branch is rather unusual in that it only serves coffee in takeaway cups, so be sure to bring your own.
Sarutahiko has several neat features. For example, although it’s counter service, you are given a playing card when you order, with an identical playing card being put down on the counter with your coffee, so you know which one is yours. On the retail side, each coffee has a card with tasting and origin notes, with the card’s colour indicating the darkness of the roast. Genius!