Food & Drink | THE HIGH GROUNDS

10 coffee shops in Tokyo that are worth the buzz

by Claire Williamson

Staff Writer

From coral-roasted coffee to Tokyo’s hotel-cafe hybrids, this past year The High Grounds has covered some of the most innovative coffee in Japan.

This final entry in the series is only one fanatic’s list of 10 places (in no particular order) to get your coffee fix in the capital.

Sukemasa Coffee: A recent addition to Tokyo’s espresso scene, Sukemasa is just steps away from Sensoji temple but feels worlds away from the crowds. Its top-notch espresso is pulled with beans from Sunny Bell Coffee in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. Barista Shota Shishido made the top 16 of the 2019 Free Pour Latte Art Grand Prix, and his skill in milk foaming and pouring is readily apparent. On top of that, in a contemporary twist on traditional Japanese hospitality, staff all wear denim kimono. sukemasa.tokyo

An elegant touch: Sukemasa Coffee combines good coffee with a modern take on traditional Japanese hospitality. | COURTESY OF SUKEMASA COFFEE
An elegant touch: Sukemasa Coffee combines good coffee with a modern take on traditional Japanese hospitality. | COURTESY OF SUKEMASA COFFEE

Passage Coffee: Truly one of Tokyo’s most underrated coffee shops. Its Mita location is minimalist and inviting, with white walls, light wood accents and mellow oldies playing in the background. Passage’s beans, roasted at the newly opened Passage Coffee Roastery near Soshigaya-Okura Station, are unbelievably flavorful — the single-origin Kenya Kangunu, equal parts fruity and floral, might be the single best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. passagecoffee.com

Coffee Elementary School: No misnomer here: Owner Wataru Yoshida actually was a teacher before he decided to open up a cafe. The Basque-style cheesecake, if you can get a piece before it sells out, is to die for, and coffee is served in beautiful ceramic cups designed to enhance the aroma of the brew. The back of the shop leads to a small art gallery for a holistic coffee-and-culture experience. bit.ly/coffee-school

Artless Craft Tea & Coffee: At Artless, no detail is too small. From the hand-stitched leather coasters to the matte black drippers and Tokoname-ware iron teapots, Artless is the epitome of modern Japanese minimalism. Tucked underneath the tracks in Nakameguro, expect the specially curated soundscape, broken only by the semiregular rumble of the Toyoko Line, to be the main focus — no rowdy gatherings here, just superb brews. craft-teaandcoffee.com

The simple life: Artless Craft Tea & Coffee's interior is panelled in understated wood. | CLAIRE WILLIAMSON
The simple life: Artless Craft Tea & Coffee’s interior is panelled in understated wood. | CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Iron Coffee: A stand more than anything else, Iron Coffee is a neighborhood gem serving up some of the best brew in the city using beans from Single O and other guest roasters. Here’s a tip: If you have a sweet tooth, don’t pass up pairing your coffee with one of Iron Coffee’s excellent desserts, particularly in the summer when it serves affogato with vanilla ice cream and homemade almond tuile cookies. iron-coffee.com

Dear All: At Dear All, a small shop a few minute’s walk from Sasazuka Station, co-owners Mei Minemura and Yutaro Hoshi have a way of making even first-time visitors feel like regulars. The two have cultivated amazing relationships with local and international vendors, so you can pair coffee from Denmark’s La Cabra with chocolate or pastries from Tokyo’s Kitin. The rotating vase of flowers on the main table adds that perfect seasonal touch to the relaxed ambience. dearalltokyo.com

Coffee-made connections: Dear All offers coffee from both domestic and international roasters alongside locally made sweets. | COURTESY OF DEAR ALL
Coffee-made connections: Dear All offers coffee from both domestic and international roasters alongside locally made sweets. | COURTESY OF DEAR ALL

Coffea Exlibris: Exlibris, in trendy Shimokitazawa, is one of the few coffee shops that stays open into the evening hours. Its rotating sweets menu is excellent, especially when paired with a full-bodied, French-pressed coffee or creamy latte. Don’t leave before perusing the lineup of high-quality coffee gear for sale by the cash register, but note that photos are strictly not allowed inside. bit.ly/coffeaexlibris

Think of Things: With coffee from Obscura Coffee Roasters and shelves of expertly curated stationary and lifestyle goods, Think of Things is a feast for the senses (but the bane of your wallet). Relax and indulge with a drink or koppepan (bread roll) sandwich — sweet or savory options are available — either inside or on a bench in the serene courtyard garden out back. think-of-things.com

Ki Cafe: With a blindingly white interior, broken up only by minimalist black tree “trunks” scattered throughout the shop, Ki is the perfect refuge from Tokyo-induced sensory overload. Relax in the quiet environment with a cup of coffee or a small slice of pound cake (or both). The tables have communal diaries that anyone can write in, and visitors often leave sweet messages or doodles. ki-cafe.com

Leaves Coffee Roasters: Although Leaves Coffee only opened its new roastery earlier this year, it has already left a mark on the Kuramae neighborhood. The floor-to-ceiling windows open the shop to the residential street, and the Probat roaster is on full display on the shop floor. If you have your coffee in-store, it comes served on a simple wooden tray and a card explaining the provenance of your single-origin bean of choice. leavescoffee.jp