Release Date: Jul 23, 2016
Shimokitazawa, also known as “Shimokita” is the funkiest neighbourhood in Tokyo, about a 10 minute train ride from Shibuya station on the Keio Inokashira line. It boasts a trendy bohemian ambiance famous for streets lined with small independent music venues, theatres, bars and second hand clothing shops. I spend the day walking around with photographer Nik van der Giesen, and we discover 10 independent coffee shops in amongst it all. We walked past and heard about many many more, so Shimokita Vol.2 may very well be in order!
1.BOOKENDS COFFEE SERVICE
Coffee doesn’t have to be expensive in Tokyo – it’s 180yen for your coffee to go, or 200yen to have it here at Bookends – it’s the way a lot of people think it should be. The owner, Hideki Tanabiki, a jazz enthusiast, is one of the friendliest cafe owners we have met. He hosts a yearly jazz event at the nearby popular music venue 440 and also holds music events inside Bookends too. Tanabiki san tells us that the crowd filters out onto the street as the coffee shop is barely able to fit the band itself! We’ll be back to see the next gig for sure!
Cafe Use is a popular spot amongst the locals to pick up some freshly roasted coffee for home. A grind sample is attached to your beans when you make your purchase to help make sure your grind at home is just right. It’s a nice touch! Atsushi Furuichi (owner) has been running the business for over 10 years and parks his Harley Davidson inside the store. The cafe logo is heavily inspired by the famous motorcycle brand. It’s pretty cool!
Coffea Exlibris has been around for quite some time, but you won’t find too much information about it online, as they usually decline media requests. We worked with the owner on a drinkware photoshoot a few months ago, so we were lucky to be able to get permission to shoot there for this column. For the coffee nerds out there you’ll be impressed with the information sheet served with your coffee stating the characteristics of your choice of single origin. And for anyone arty, the card comes with beautiful individual artwork commissioned by the coffee shop. We want to collect them all. It’s a special place and definitely embodies that subtle Japanese way that has become so attractive. It should be your first stop!
4.FRANKIE MELBOURNE ESPRESSO
About a minute walk from the south exit sits Frankie Melbourne Espresso. Anyone who has been to Australia will feel right at home here as flat whites, long blacks and lattes sit proudly on the menu. Alex is the perfect owner/barista; warm and friendly with every single customer and happily chats all things coffee and all things non-coffee too. Frankie is using beans roasted by AllPress (New Zealand) and there are some delicious Australian treats to go with your coffee there as well. Frankie is a great addition to the coffee fabric of Tokyo.
Kate Coffee is up on the 2nd floor of a corner building with lots of natural light shining through. It feels like you’re in your best friend’s apartment here as the owners are very warm and welcoming. We stop here for lunch and enjoy a delicious Keema curry which comes with a side salad, a choice of drink (delicious coffee of course!) and a mini dessert, all for 980yen. There are three types of “Kate Blend” on the menu – mild, light or bitter. Coffee and curry is a match made in heaven!
Take your shoes off at the entrance of Ki and get ready for one of the most unique coffee experiences of your life. Ki in Japanese means tree. The black table legs reach up over the table to resemble trees. And everything else is white. Ki has been featured in design/interior magazine all over the world… and rightly so. Check out the photos! This could be what heaven is like for us coffee lovers… it is absolutely divine. They are serving pour over coffee using 27 Coffee Roasters beans. It’s a must visit.
Moldive is the longest running cafe on our list, having opened it’s doors in March of 1984. I find out that it’s built a loyal customer base over the years. I chat to one of the customers while he waits for his coffee to be made outside as the smell of coffee being roasted (on a Fuji Royal roaster) drifts out onto the street… “I have come here most days for coffee for the past 10 years.. I don’t think anything has changed here since it’s opened… That’s the way I like it.” They recently started offering a subscription service online and by mail order to keep up with the times too!
8.ON THE WAY, COFFEE AND CUPCAKES
This is one of the cutest coffee stands we’ve laid our eyes on. We are greeted with an original “good coffee” cupcake made especially for us- and we’re all going instagram crazy. Shingo Fukuda (barista) is super friendly, and loves meeting all the tourists who stop by for coffee (and cupcakes!). Shingo serves up a great latte or a drip coffee – and he’ll even take your photo and upload it on the shop’s instagram account to share with other coffee lovers!
9.SHIMOKITA KA DOKKA NO KAFE
A lot of people ask me where the best cafe in Tokyo is, and it’s always such a difficult question to answer. Every cafe has elements and are good at different things in different ways. So, there is no ‘best’. But there are ‘favourites’ of course, and I’m happy to go on the record stating that this cafe is one of those. Shimokita ka dokka no cafe (loosely translated as “a cafe somewhere in shimokita”) is the most unpretentious cafe that ticks all of my boxes and pushes all of my buttons. It’s imperfections are perfect, with it’s raw interior, excellent music choice (Beirut is playing over the speakers as I write this), and the staff and clientele are friendly community-driven folk. The place might well just make me start up my personal coffee blog again!!!
10.CAFE TROIS CHAMBERS
Even though we try to focus on the newly established coffee shops, we do love featuring the odd kissaten (the old traditional Japanese cafe) and Shimokita is home to an abundance of them. One kissaten well worth the visit in Shimokita has to be Cafe Trois Chambers. There is a beautiful wooden counter where you can sit at or there are little pockets of tables where you can have coffee time with that someone special. Your coffee is served in beautiful cups, the artwork displayed around the cafe is exquisite, and the atmosphere takes you back in time… my “entourage” agree that this is that beautiful universe right next door.