Generally you think of Japan as being a big tea drinking country, but on our first trip to Japan in 2008 we were quite surprised at the sophistication of the Japanese coffee culture. Prior to our trip we had only been exposed to the traditional coffees here in Australia, drip, cappuccinos, espresso, flat white, flat black, bad instant etc. Then along came the Nespresso style pod machines. So, seeing some new ways of brewing coffee was an eye opener.
When we have a holiday in Tokyo, we have a little tradition of visiting three of our favourite cafes, one located behind Ginza Alley in Ginza (brick building very European looking), Ko’hikan in Asakusa and Miyama in Nakano
Our very first coffee in Tokyo in 2008 was in Ginza, on a very cold and damp spring afternoon. We stumbled upon a very European looking coffee shop (wooden door and window surrounds, exposed brick, brass revolving door, elegant frosted windows, baby grand piano, you get the picture?). A menu was presented to us in English with pictures so we decided on a cointreau coffee (it was COLD, we needed the warmth from the cointreau). The waitress bought our order along with a rich slice of chocolate cake.
The cups and saucers were a very elegant surprise and of course I had to peak and see who they were made by, naturally Noritake. Just so you know I am slightly (ok, extremely) partial to Noritake crockery, having been bought up with my Nan’s set that came out every special occasion.
Our next visit we ordered milk coffees. Wow talk about a bit of theatre for service. Our cups came out first, then, the waitress bought over two silver coffee pots. We thought there was one for each of us, but one had coffee and the other was hot milk. Starting low to the cups, the waitress poured equal quantities of milk and coffee, raising the pot as she did so which created a little froth on top. Of course we needed a little sweet thing to go with our coffee, a light and fluffy cheesecake.
Mr CA4G snuck in a visit by himself when he went for a solo visit between jobs in 2010 and had a black coffee with milk and his favourite dessert Mont Blanc.
In Asakusa we discovered Ko’hikan while walking over to Kappabashi Dori from Senso-Ji Temple. It was the first place we ever tried Syphon filter coffee. The first time we visited the water for the coffee was heated using a methylated spirit flame and this year when we went we discovered they no longer use a flame but a really high heat lamp. The coffee is placed in the upper portion of the syphon, the water is heated in the bottom globe section until it goes up the central tube into the upper section, the heat is removed and the coffee brews. As it cools the brewed coffee flows back down the tube in to the lower half of the unit and is then poured into cups and served with little glass jugs of milk. Very scientific looking.
We go to Nakano for some very specific shops for Mr CA4G, but we find we need a coffee for some fortitude. Miyama is located in the shopping centre and what caught our eye on our first visit was the cold water filter system that they use ( another very scientific looking contraption). Water slowly drips through the ground beans into a carafe underneath. The coffee is then warmed as needed. This form of filtering provides a smoother coffee without the bitterness that is often present in hot brewed coffee.
It is great to be amongst the locals, I can’t recall seeing any foreigners when we have been. This year we also had lunch which comes as a set (sandwich with coffee). Mr. CA4G had a burger and I had a sandwich. Very tasty and that fluffy white bread they make in Japan is so light.
And of course on Kappabashi Dori amongst all the kitchenware shops is a specialist coffee shop along with a several specialist roasters and providores of coffee beans/ground coffee. They seem to be really in to their single origins and fair trade coffees in Japan.
I think the only time we have had a cappuccino or latte in Tokyo was when we have breakfast in the Park Hyatt, The Conrad, or at our favourite little cafe/bakery Vie de France. When we stay at the Park Hotel Shiodome we love the over cup drip filter they have in the rooms, from Key Coffee.
Have you had a great coffee somewhere other than here in Australia? I would love to here about it!