Two weeks after my return from Japan, my mundane life here in San Diego seems more boring than ever. Luckily, it is the holiday season, so I get to spend a lot of time with my family, but it’s still hard for me to remember how exhilarating my time in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka was.
I miss Tokyo the most: walking under the neon lights of Shibuya, reflected like a mirror off the rainy streets; getting lost in the nine-story labyrinths of every Don Quixote; stumbling upon shrines, vending machines, and strangely phenomenal 7-Elevens; and, of course, visiting every possible third wave coffee shop that I could.
I wouldn’t be living up to my Slow Boat Library legacy if I didn’t post about my favorite coffee shops in Tokyo. I did a ton of research before I got there, as is always the case for every new city I visit, and certainly found my personal favorites. In fact, some of these coffee shops here made it onto my personal, mental list of my all-time favorites. If you find yourself in Tokyo or are simply trying to live vicariously through my experiences (as I do so often with other avid travelers) you have to check out these coffee shops.
In my opinion, these are the best coffee shops in Tokyo:
Little Nap Coffee Stand, Shibuya
It took me quite a bit of time to make my way to Little Nap Coffee Stand but it was absolutely worth it. It was indeed a cramped and sleepy little coffee hole, the walls covered in cool local art and a beautiful view of life outside. This is one of those places that, since it’s off the beaten path, is not incredibly busy inside, but they do get a steady flow of customers. It’s the perfect place to get cozy read a book with a steaming cup of pour-over in front of you.
Address: 5 Chome-65-4 Yoyogi, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-0053, Japan
Darwin Room, Shimokitazawa
I’ve got to be honest, what originally drew me to Darwin Room was the weird, quirky bookstore that it primarily is. I had heard they have good coffee and the fact that the coffee wasn’t advertised, but you had to request it from a member of staff, made it even better in a way. My entire experience at Darwin Room was enjoyable, from the window views and sitting area to the coffee and biscuits they included. Even though the neighborhood of Shimokitazawa is a bit off the beaten path, it’s a great place to shop and get a cup of coffee at a bizarre bookshop.
Address: Japan, 〒155-0032 Tokyo, Setagaya City, Daizawa, 5 Chome−31−8 101号 グリーン沢
Koffee Mameya, Jingumae
Koffee Mameya was the first place I went on my first full day in Tokyo. I took the metro to Harajuku Station and walked past the vibrant Takeshita Street to the smaller side streets to make my way there. Honestly, the walk itself is its own adventure so, if Ubers or taxis are your thing, I’d make sure you skip out on those and get here on foot.
Koffee Mameya is the single most impressive coffee shop I’ve been to. It’s got a minimalist design but, besides that, there is nothing minimalist about it. The baristas all wear white coats that make them look more like scientists and, with their knowledge of coffee, it honestly would not surprise me if they were.
This place is mainly for buying beans but they won’t actually let you buy any unless you drink a pour-over of it, take your time drinking it, and truly like it. Then, if you do decide to go for it, they’ll carefully walk you through the very specific process of making it with your chosen brew method. If you’re going to go through the effort of bringing coffee beans back with you to your hometown, this is where to get them.
Address: 4 Chome-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Verve Coffee Roasters, Shinjuku Station
Although this is a native Californian brand, I couldn’t resist stopping at the Verve Coffee Roasters in Shinjuku Station. Their flash nitro brew is my single favorite coffee drink by any coffee company and, since this is one of the few coffee shops in Tokyo that is actually open at 8 am, this was often where I started my day. Along with your flash nitro cold brew, I also recommend their Belgian waffle with ricotta and berries!
Address: NEWoMan Shinjuku 2F 5-24-55, Sendagaya, Shibuya City
Sarutahiko Coffee, Shinjuku
A tiny little window shop attached to Beams Streetwear, Sarutahiko is the perfect place to grab a quick, but quality, cup of coffee. Their specialty is pour over and, while you wait for it, you can peruse the lower floor of Beams, which is one of my favorite clothing shops in all of Tokyo. But don’t let the size of the coffee stop fool you because they pack a lot of flavor into these tiny cups.
Address: Japan, 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku City, Shinjuku, 3 Chome−32−6 B1F 5F
About Life Coffee Brewers, Shibuya
Similar to Sarutahiko, About Life Coffee Brewers near Shibuya Station is not exactly a sit-down cafe. You order at the counter from the street and can choose to either wait outside or step into the little sitting room attached to the shop. It was pouring rain outside and I got to enjoy the entirety of my coffee inside, which was nice because I got to watch the talented baristas work their magic. About Life is easy to miss so be sure to keep an eye out for it because it’s totally worth it!
Address: 1 Chome-19-8 Dogenzaka, Shibuya City
Harajuku Nome Shiba Cafe
Okay, so this place is not even remotely specialty coffee. In fact, you get your coffee from a vending machine. But what gets this place on my list is what actually goes down at Harajuku Nome Shiba Cafe. For thirty amazing minutes, you get to drink your coffee and play with shiba inu puppies. Some of the little guys were fast asleep, others would walk right up to you to cuddle, and the rest were rough housing with each other.
They’re so dang adorable and, thankfully, truly seem to be having a good time. As someone who is severely allergic to dogs, these little buggers were worth the asthma attack. If you’re a dog person, I highly recommend visiting this place.
Address: １０号 3f, 1 Chome-6-番 Jingumae, Shibuya City
You should know, before going to any coffee shops in Tokyo, that if the place is primarily a cafe, it might not open until 10 or 11 in the morning. Breakfast is really the only meal that the Japanese eat at home, and that includes coffee, so no one generally heads to a coffee shop until late morning. Just be sure to check the store hours before you head out and you’ll be good to go.
There are tons of other great coffee shops in Tokyo, like Fuglen Coffee, Cafe Obscura, Glitch Coffee Roasters, Cafe Kitsuné, and The Roastery by Nozy Coffee. Tokyo has embraced the third-wave coffee movement with open arms and, like Hong Kong and Seoul, are at the forefront of East Asian coffee culture. No trip to Tokyo is complete without visiting at least one of these shops!