There is a breadth and depth to Tokyo’s coffee scene that’s very distinctive. From traditional coffee shops embracing old Japan to a new wave of highly specialist cafés embodying the country’s attention to detail and unique approach to hospitality.

Most strikingly, during our time in Tokyo, every coffee encounter was driven by a desire to educate and be educated from coffee professionals. As a learning and development organisation we found that very encouraging.

From the old…

In Tokyo we sampled many kissaten (traditional Japanese coffee shops), the most renowned of which was Ginza’s Café de l’Ambre. Owned and still operated by Ichiro Sekiguchi since 1948, this café is not for the faint hearted.

Wafting in cigar smoke, this café uses aged beans and then roasts them dark, really dark. Weighed on old-fashioned sliding scales, and brewed with a ‘new drip’, a traditional pour-over method, the result is really quite something. It’s not necessarily to everyone’s taste but you cannot fault the precision and craft of the Baristas and centenarian owner and roaster.

As Eric from Tokyo coffee writes; ‘The coffee served at this cafe is something different. It doesn’t fit neatly into any category. It’s a mysterious blend of tradition and innovation. It’s something worth experiencing.’ For a taste of Old Tokyo we recommend a visit and a sneaky peek into the office and roastery. The rest of Eric’s article is also definitely worth a read

To the new…

Koffee Mameya, is in stark contrast to Café de l’Ambre both visually and taste wise. We were brewed drip coffees from a wide selection of coffees from roasteries in and outside of Japan. Not only was the selection varied and of high quality, but the whole experience was thoughtful, precise and masterful.

As Hengtee Lim, writer for Sprudge summarises “The…experience is designed around communication. There are no pictures on the walls, and no seats—there is only the customer, the barista, and the menu on the counter that brings them together.” We left with a true sense of the coffee we had sampled and the passion and commitment of the Baristas to provide you with the most enriching learning and tasting experience.

Other highlights in Tokyo included Switch Coffee – a café and roastery producing consistently good light and medium light roasts and About Life, a great little hole in the wall café brewing up expertly crafted coffee from multiple Japanese roasters.

Coffee in Japan directly reflects the culture. Produced expertly, with equal dedication to both a learning and sensory experience. Just as the Japanese have taken to jazz and whiskey, small-batch brewed coffee is increasingly an intrinsic part of Japanese culture. And we for one are very happy about that.