A relatively quiet and nondescript area of Tokyo, the suburb of Kiyosumi Shirakawa has become something of a coffee lovers’ paradise. With hipster cafes and independent roasteries within meters of each other, it’s just the place if you’re serious about your caffeine fix.
These coffees are among some of the best you’ll find in Tokyo, but unless you can drink several cups without bouncing or dashing for the nearest bathroom, one or two should do it. As such, a coffee tour isn’t the best idea here, but it’s worth a look in if you happen to be in the area. You might be visiting a nearby attraction, like Kiyosumi Gardens, Kiba Park or the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art. If you are, it’s as good a time as any to pop into one of these cafes.
Iki Roastery and Eatery
The first stop on our tour is Iki Roastery and Eatery, at their new premises (the original Iki Espresso is still going). Having spent several decades in New Zealand, owner Teru Harase expressed disappointment in the quality of baked goods at Japanese cafes. Iki’s new open-plan, two-story café is their way of remedying that situation. With an in-house bakery and roaster, Iki offers freshly baked ‘toasts’ and pastries alongside outstanding coffees.
Using their signature, lightly roasted, espresso blend, Iki’s New Zealand heritage shines through in its white coffees. Their excellent lattes are crisp and bright with a refreshing hint of acidity. There are also single-origin drip coffees available alongside their espresso options. These are slightly darker roasts if that’s more your thing. A first-class coffee alongside a warm, flaky croissant is an experience – one that Iki has perfected.
Allpress Espresso Roastery and Café
Allpress is another café with its roots in New Zealand, and as you might expect, also excels with its white coffees. Their minimalist menu has flat whites and lattes as their main offering, with a handful of accompanying pastries. The lattes themselves are deeper and more full-bodied than those at Iki, with almost no acidity.
Allpress café is a little out of the way and has limited seating, with much of the space dedicated to the roastery. But if you just need a white coffee to start your day, this is the perfect place to grab one and get going.
Arise Coffee Roasters
Closer to Kiyosumi Shirakawa station, you could be forgiven for not even realizing Arise (Link in Japanese) was a roastery. Decorated with vintage memorabilia and wooden benches outside, Arise has a down to earth charm. It’s no surprise that that’s precisely what you get with their coffee as well. Arise offers a variety of single origin beans, pour over – no espresso work here,
The coffees themselves tend to be roasted on the darker side of medium, and start at ¥400 depending on your choice of beans. The Dominican Republic city roast I was recommended had a noticeable acidity, with almost no bitterness or body. A pleasant coffee after two lattes – so if you know what you’re looking for or are happy to be surprised, give Arise a try.
Just by the entrance to the Kiyosumi Gardens, Tokaku Coffee+ awaits coffee afficionados. As the café outlet of Arise Roastery, it offers the same drip-only coffee. There are only a handful of coffees on their menu – no frills here. But rather than Arise’s loaded, hemmed in café, Entangle’s relatively open and airy café décor invites patrons to relax and unwind over their cup of drip brew.
Though still relatively simple, Entangle offers a few more options. Their café au lait, made with a Vietnamese City roast, was milky, smooth, and sweet. If you enjoy your drip coffee with some room for creativity, this is the café for you.
Blue Bottle Coffee
Kiyosumi also has a touch of California’s coffee culture in the area through the Blue Bottle café. It’s not the best place if you’re in a rush – even with several new branches, take out had a 15-minute queue. Seating was even worse, at 50.
Is the coffee worth the wait? Their lattes are certainly exceptional, with a mild and balanced flavor shining through in Blue Bottle’s signature espresso blend. If espresso isn’t your thing, Blue Bottle also has cold and hot drip coffees available if you’re willing to wait just a few more minutes.
The Cream of the Crop Coffee
A new addition to our venture into Kiyosumi, The Cream of the Crop’s unique aesthetic stands out. Despite the renovated warehouse exterior, this café is just as trendy as any other on our list. Serving only pour over coffees, the quality of the beans shines through.
Whenever you visit, Cream of the Crop is likely to have five or six roasts to choose from. From fruitier and more acidic equatorial coffees, to darker and more bitter continental, they’ll have something for any palate. As an industrial roaster, don’t expect much by way of food or pastries here. But if you’re interested in a pure coffee experience, this should be your go-to spot.