Sometimes, even though the heart may say “shop till you drop,” the body doth protest. Though many shops still have a “no food or drink” rule, there are a growing number in Tokyo that offer high-quality coffee alongside curated retail products, so you can keep your shopping energy up while enjoying some of Tokyo’s best coffee.
And, if you think these coffee stands are just gimmicks — like tacky Instagram walls — to attract surface-level customer attention, think again.
According to a 2013 market research survey conducted by consulting firm Accenture, 82 percent of millennial consumers (defined as those born between 1980 and 2000) prefer shopping in brick-and-mortar stores as compared to online stores, provided the shopping experience is a positive one. And, according to a 2017 Forbes article, placing a cafe or coffee shop inside a retail space fosters a culture of “coffee shopping” that de-emphasizes merchandise and prioritizes the overall shopping experience.
Several such coffee stands in Tokyo have perfected this “coffee shopping” balance.
Saturdays New York City (Aobadai 1-5-2, Meguro-ku; saturdaysnyc.co.jp), is housed in a glass-fronted, ivy-covered building. Natural light fills the space, highlighting a row of neatly stacked surfboards in primary colors. The minimalist concrete espresso counter on the first floor faces racks of surfer-chic menswear. Passing through the shop space, a wooden deck behind the store lets customers sip a latte while gazing over the Daikanyama skyline.
“Saturdays is not just an apparel brand,” says Saturdays New York City brand manager Shingo Suzuki. “It’s a lifestyle brand. We don’t just sell clothes, but take root in the local area and community in order to become a place a variety of people can visit.
“The coffee that barista champion Taka Ishitani supervises (for us) is top-level, even for Tokyo,” he continues.
Saturdays NYC‘s espresso blend, which is equal parts beans from Brazil, Ethiopia and Columbia, is well-balanced and ever so slightly sweet, with enough acidity that the coffee’s fruity undertones shine through even in latte form, when the addition of milk often overpowers underlying flavors.
“Even those who aren’t coffee people can drink (our blends) and find them delicious,” Suzuki says. Coffee maniac or not, ordering a coffee encourages browsing, since you can fill the minutes between order and pick-up (or, if you’re careful with your cup, even after) by perusing the merchandise on display.
Nearby, Number (Ebisu-Nishi 1-33-14, Shibuya-ku; number-daikanyama.com) serves up Italian-style espresso — with beans from Italian company Bon Dolfi — pulled on its La Marzocco machine. Also on offer is a range of vintage accessories, clothing and custom-order services. At this self-described “store for hanging out,” sit and relax at one of the bar stools on the first floor or on the bench outside to watch the Daikanyama crowds bustle by.
A 10-minute walk away in Nakameguro is Jaho Coffee at Plain People (Aobadai 1-16-10, Meguro-ku; jaho.com) where, if you’re lucky, you can snag a seat at the long storefront window that overlooks the Meguro River (a particularly great pitstop when the cherry trees are in bloom) or at one of the elegantly mismatched wooden chairs around the communal table.
Jaho serves coffee, pastries and even light meals of soup and salad for shoppers tired of browsing Plain People’s, nature-inspired garments and home goods. Jaho Coffee at Plain People, which opened in 2016, was the Massachusetts-based company’s first international location, but in January it opened Jaho Tamachi (Shiba 5-29-11, Minato-ku), a stand-alone shop in Tokyo’s Tamachi district.
While the ever-busy Cobi Coffee Box (NEWoMan 4F, Shinjuku 4-1-6, Shinjuku-ku; bloom-branch.jp), which occupies one corner of Bloom&Branch, a high-end menswear and womenswear shop, doesn’t quite strike the ideal retail-experience balance, its other (usually quieter) location, Cobi Coffee Aoyama (Minamiaoyama 5-10-5, Minato-ku), does a fantastic job of melding the old-world kissaten vibe with a laid-back shopping experience. Sit at its square counter and take in the small details, such as the contrasts between the wooden surface, copper kettles and metal nel drip stand. The coffee at both locations is exquisite; even more so when paired with one of the wagashi (Japanese sweets) on the menu.
“We have some customers who come once a month just to buy clothes,” says Cobi Coffee manager Daisuke Kawajiri, “and some who come to drink coffee everyday. You could say we have both (coffee and products) because we want to become a place that many people want to visit.”
The next time you’re suffering from shopping-induced fatigue, consider giving a shop that offers an in-store caffeinated experience a try.