Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
I am thinking and talking a lot about kissatens – the Japanese traditional coffee houses that have been operating for decades and that have nonchalantly resisted the intense progress that third wave coffee shops embody. I am not the only kissaten denizen. I see third wave baristas on their days off at kissatens, lifestyle magazines continue to run editorial pieces on kissatens, and perhaps best of all, more and more of the youth are starting to visit them regularly in Japan. Kissatens are such keepers of culture that it’s important that they continue to survive, so we’re doing our part here to shine the spotlight on them. In our second series (so sorry we didn’t get to it sooner!) we head to three of the best, each with so much character.
SATEI HATO, SHIBUYA
Anyone who follows our instagram account @goodcoffeme will know that I’ve been a regular customer at Hato for some time now. If you’re in search of a space where you can really relax over an outstanding cup of coffee, look no further. At almost 30 years of age, Satei Hato has built itself a wonderful reputation and is now widely considered one of the coffee sanctuaries of the world.
The beans have been charcoal-roasted and your coffee is carefully made using the pour over method. Relaxing classical music permeates (out of incredible speakers) through this charming L-shaped coffee shop. The majestic flower arrangement changes every two weeks, carefully made and displayed by the coffee masters themselves. Sit at the counter and order the aged beans, but please allow yourself 20-30 minutes for your coffee to be made. And always let yourself go by pairing up your coffee with the homemade chiffon cake – it’s the perfect match and really does melt in your mouth.
I’d walked past J-Cook a hundred times without giving it much thought… (shame on me!) until the owner of a kissaten I frequently visit mentioned the name. The next day I walked in instead of walking past, ordered a coffee and a freshly squeezed orange juice and I suddenly found myself in the middle of the friendliest conversation I’d had in a long long time with the owners. I returned a few days later, Atsuko-san had remembered my name and the conversation started up again. The husband and wife team who own and operate J-COOK are a worldly couple, having travelled far and wide together and are knowledgeable and interested about many cultures. Oh wow! They’ve just come back from Melbourne! We laugh while looking through some of the photos they took.
Open the door at J-COOK and you walk into a beautiful open space with lots of natural light, but there is also a room further down on the left concealed from the entrance, perhaps more for lunch and dinner patrons. The goodcoffee.me have a (little bit of a) debate about whether or not this actually is a kissaten, but we love it so much that it’s made it’s way in this column and on our page to stay forever. It’s technically probably more of a café/restaurant though. The menu is difficult to categorize – there’s a lot to choose from. The eel pilaf, beef curry and gumbo soup are coming past and are looking pretty mouthwateringly full of goodness. We have opened our diaries to see when we are next available to come back for dinner. It’s really easy to feel right at home here.
COFFEE LAWN, YOTSUYA
I liken the feeling of walking into a kissaten the same as opening a little box of jewelry. Lawn is a fine example of this, as words like “classic” and “ever-lasting” come to mind. Established in 1954, it moved once in 1968, and hasn’t changed since. The stone entrance and authentic retro interior makes it an old yet modern architectural delight. It often naturally acts as the perfect backdrop for fashion shoots. Rumor has it that the Monocle magazine team rented it out to hold their Christmas party here a few years back.
Pair your drip coffee up with their famous omelette “tamago” sandwich. Smoking is permitted, but it is usually quiet enough for non-smokers to find a table away by themselves. The Beatles is usually playing. Newspapers and magaizines are there for you to have a relaxing read through. Coffee Lawn is a real asset to the city of Tokyo that we hope we never lose.
Read Kissaten Volume 1 here: http://en.goodcoffee.me/column/vaughan/kissaten-vol-1/