Nozy Coffee
2-29-7 Shimouma
(12 min. from Sangenjaya or Ikejiri-ohashi on the Denentoshi Line)
Maybe I'm not done with my search for transcendent espresso in Tokyo. Thanks to reader Luke for bringing Nozy to my attention after his Bear Pond mishap. In what is a strikingly handsome bi-level space, Nozy outshines 99.9% of Tokyo coffee peddlers. Although this relatively new shop (opened in August 2010) might be considered behind the times in adhering to single origin coffee (many now consider this a dated industry fad), one can't fault Nozy for what is clearly a mission in pursuit of coffee excellence. With on-premises roasting and seminars on cupping and food pairing, Nozy really is doing something special for coffee in Tokyo. My espresso was a single origin Dominican with very high acid. I gauged it at almost two ounces of water (and mouthfeel suffered as a result). Although I have experimented with single origin coffee in my own roasting and espresso-making adventures, I am now moving back to the blend as the best way to drink espresso. My Nozy Dominican confirmed this. It was simply too piercingly one-note. It will be interesting to see how Nozy develops in the next few years. Oh, further testament to Nozy's focus on coffee: no food is served.

First Visit: February 27, 2011
Bear Pond Espresso
2-36-12 Kitazawa
03-5454-2486 東京都世田谷区北沢2-36-12
I'm done. The search for transcendent espresso in Tokyo is over. I might just retire this blog. Really. Opened in April 2009 by Katsu Tanaka, Bear Pond simply blows away all Tokyo competition when it comes to espresso. Period. There's quite a back story here. After 18 years in NYC as a certified barista and trainer with Counter Culture and Gimme! Coffee, Tanaka moved back to Tokyo to open his own shop with the help of his wife, Chisa. He walked the neighborhoods and found an old candy shop in Shimokitazawa whose owner wanted out (though she remains his landlady). Why "Bear Pond"? It's a lake in upstate New York for which the Tanakas have a fondness. More importantly, the characteristics of bears (the animal) suit what Tanaka is trying to do in giving Tokyo a taste of true espresso. In other words, his ristretto-type shot (I'm judging my shots were well under an ounce of liquid and Tanaka uses about 20 to 22 grams of beans per shot) is not for everybody. With ursine-like ferocity, Tanaka's shots will bowl you over with everything a "god-shot" (credit to Mark Prince of Coffeegeek) should be. Does Tanaka give a damn that his shots might not be to the tastes of most Tokyoites (who are used to a more watered-down version of espresso)? No. Not a bit. He knows exactly what he's after and doesn't want to compromise: a chocolaty bomb of a shot with hints of spice and salt. He told me, "I'm a bear and my espresso is only for other bears!" Smiling, he went on to say, though, that a bear generally tends to get along quite well with other bears. Tanaka's beans are provided by specialty roaster Nori Yoshimi. Bear Pond has a semi-exclusive relationship with Yoshimi for a reason: Yoshimi only trusts Tanaka and a few other baristas with his beans.

First Visit: September 3, 2009

Nid Cafe
3-13-23 Aoyama
TEL: 03-5772-7639
[UPDATE: Nid Cafe is permanently closed for business.] From the same group responsible for the fetching Eau Cafe in Daikanyama, Nid can be a bit hipper-than-thou at times and the place is something of a smokers' paradise. However, the espresso is often good to very good and the food, like lamb curry, is subtle and a step-up from pedestrian cafe fare.

First visit: August 14, 2009


1-12-3 Utsukushigaoka, Aoba-ku, Yokohama
Tama Plaza Station

TEL: 045-901-6550


A bit feminine for my tastes, but Bonnet is a lovely cafe and the owner knows his espresso.

First visit: August 16, 2009

Zaim Cafe Annex
1-51 Ishikawa-cho, Yokohama
TEL: 045-308-8481
Close to Motomachi and Yokohama Chinatown, Zaim Cafe Annex is perhaps the most comfortable cafe I've found in the Tokyo Metro area. Too bad it's rather inconveniently situated atop a hill overlooking Motomachi. No espresso here but, if you're in the area, this renovated home is an absolute must visit.

First visit: August 23, 2009

da Gino
1-2-3 Minami-Ebisu
TEL: 03-5723-8877
[UPDATE: da Gino is permanently closed for business.] After all the time spent "laboring" in Ebisu, I can't believe I missed da Gino. Thanks to Jeremy S. who brought this two-year old wine and espresso bar to my attention. Is it great espresso? No, not yet. Does it show extraordinary promise? Yes. My single espresso was more akin to a double pour. The barista was well-meaning and admitted to have only just started to really study how to make good espresso. He flushed the Cimbali about 10 minutes prior to my pull and my shot suffered. The result was an over-extracted pour. da Gino's massive Cimbali simply gets the water too hot and a flush is absolutely required prior to each pull. Otherwise, his technique was good (grinding fresh for the shot, swiping the portafilter, etc.). What da Gino also has going for it is the fact that it is roasting and using its own beans (it even sells beans under the "Gino" brand at Kinokuniya).

First visit: August 5, 2009

Café Landtmann


3-11-7 Kitaaoyama, Minato-ku

Ao Bldg. 4F

東京都港区北青山3-11-7 AOビル4F

TEL: 03-3498-2061

A pantheon to Vienna in Aoyama’s new Ao Building (another new and gleaming shopping mecca opened just in time for the current economic slump). It’s better to stick with the Vienna Coffee or another whipped cream creation as the espresso is a watery insult. My goulash soup (!), salad and bread made for a refreshing lunch and I envied the neighbor’s wiener schnitzel.

Eataly Japan

20-23 Daikanyama-cho, Shibuya-ku
TEL: 03-5784-2736


I must confess to serious mixed feelings about this place. (Thank you to Daniel N. for his tip.) It's one part Disney, two parts mall food court plopped down ungraciously in Daikanyama, one of Tokyo's trendiest shopping districts. Its lofty mission is to provide Tokyo with an Italian wine and food center. The result? Gobs of people wandering confusedly from market to cafe to wine bar to deli counter and tons of staff members (all of whom seem to be going on break or just coming off break). Not a relaxing experience in the least. That being said, the deli products on offer (San Marzano tomatoes, great selection of salami, prosciutto, pancetta, fresh pasta and mozzarella, etc.), bakery, and pizzeria are a welcome addition here. The espresso? Um . . . no. The barista, an Italian fellow (but that's irrelevant), didn't grind fresh the entire 60 minutes I sat in front of him. Only when I stood up to leave, did he grind (and only to fill the doser again). (This felt like a giant f*** you.) Eataly, shame on it, is also using imported, roasted-abroad beans. See my rant here re this act of insanity.

Shichimencho Café

5-16-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
TEL: 03-5467-3939
So there's no espresso and the coffee sucks. Okay, but Shichimencho serves a mean green curry and is such a refreshingly real and relaxing cafe/bar amidst uptight Omotesando spots that this place should be on everybody's list. The owner has over 1500 LPs and keeps the music loud.

Lili Marleen

2-8-2 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku
TEL: 03-3724-0319

A quirky but ultimately winsome new café in Jiyugaoka’s dated “Little Venice.” The owner is a charming woman with some connection to Germany (I didn’t ask). The menu is full of sausages and pretzels and she has two beers on tap (one from Germany I failed to recognize and the other brewed in German style by a microbrewer here in Japan). The espresso beans are imported courtesy of LaVazza and the quality suffers as a result. Click here for my rant on the senselessness of importing roasted beans. However, I get the feeling that the owner is getting to know her espresso machine, a gorgeous Carimali Kicco 1, and there are worse shots being pulled in Tokyo. My advice: skip the espresso for now and have a beer on the patio by the “canal.”



2-6-6 Sangenjaya, Setagaya-ku

TEL: 03-3422-2653

東京都世田谷区三軒茶屋2-6-6 井筒屋ビル 

Another hipper-than-thou Tokyo café with the exception that espresso is passable here.


1-34-17 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku
Za HOUSE Bldg. B1
TEL: 03-5459-8631
東京都渋谷区恵比寿西1-34-17 Za HOUSE ビルB1
Sure, the place stays open until
5:00 a.m.
, but with espresso that's pure drek, it makes no difference. The cafe's perpetually smoky too.



1-20-8 Ebisu-nishi, Shibuya-ku

TEL: 03-3496-1692


Not for the dilettante, Verde is an Old School Tokyo cafe presided over by a master who has exacting standards when it comes to the right pour. To give you an idea: he used to sell his homemade and custom-designed (for optimal drip) burlap filter (pictured above) to customers. But, after learning that users weren't cleaning the filter properly, he ceased all sales! Don't be afraid, he's a convivial man who will wax poetic on coffee and its current state if prodded. Warning: no espresso here so don't even ask!

Café Delight
1-24-12, Ebisu, Shibuya-ku,
TEL: 03-3444-1818
Excellent bar/restaurant with a deft hand at food and mixed drinks (had the best-tasting vodka tonic, or, I should say, tonics, in many a moon). Espresso is only slightly better than marginal (which is sad because Cafe Delight has all the right tools: grinder, two-group machine, etc.).

Pelle’s Espresso


3-1-4 Kanda, Ogawa-cho, Chiyoda-ku

TEL: 03-5283-0332


[UPDATE: Pelle's is permanently closed for business. Its last day was on August 25, 2009. According to the manager, there are no current plans to reopen.] I’m enamored of this place. It’s espresso in Tokyo by way of Melbourne, Australia. The owner is Japanese and splits his time between the two cities. A gorgeous Faema Legend E61 is the shop’s pride and joy and it’s easy to see why. Faema re-introduced this machine in 2001 (it first came to market in 1961). (See this fascinating article on by Paul Pratt documenting his own efforts to restore a Faema.) Pelle’s beans are roasted by a father of one of the employees. His espresso blend, although largely a secret, consists largely of some Brazil and Sumatra Mandheling. (That’s as much info as I could get!) The staff is a gregarious bunch and matches macchinesti’s seriousness when it comes to espresso.

Updated: August 25, 2009

1-17-1 Ebisu-Nishi, Shibuya-ku
TEL: 03-5489-1117
A gorgeous Brasilia espresso machine sits behind the bar and it's put to expert use. Beans are ground fresh for each order. This is an extremely proficient operation with food and espresso at a very high level. It's also something of the gaijin scene for weekend brunch (but not obnoxiously so).



1-8-3 4F Ebisu-Minami, Shibuya-ku

TEL: 03-3760-0955

渋谷区恵比寿南1-8-3 4F

There is nothing to recommend on the espresso front here. Analog relies on a super-automatic machine and results are predictably disappointing. However, there is much to recommend about the café in terms of atmosphere and vibe. It’s a unique space if you can tolerate the cigarette smoke and the hand-job parlor two floors below.