Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tokyo Coffee Culture

When one thinks of good coffee, one rarely thinks of Japan.. but it certainly has its very own coffee culture, and by culture, I do not mean a guhzillion Starbucks littering the streets although they are not uncommon. Japanese take their coffee very seriously and I am still impressed by the many independent cafes which have been in existence for a long time. The quaint one I went to in Harajuku - 溜屋咖啡店 has been around since 1850!

Japanese cafes pride themselves on the blends or roasts on offer. It's not about how much syrup or whipped cream you can slather the coffee with. It's not about how you can have your coffee "skinny".
If you have a Blue Mountain, and don't like taking it neat, you should use cream and not milk. If you want your coffee cold and sweet, you don't add sugar crystals since they don't melt. You add sugar syrup! It's how to bring out the best in the coffee. The Japanese really have their coffee down pat and some cafes even import their beans direct from South America.

And these cafes have great cakes (likely home made) on offer. The chiffon seems to be a popular offering and both 溜屋 in Harajuku and 壹真咖啡店 in Ginza had their own to offer. 溜屋's chiffon is by far superior although the coffee at 壹真was outstanding both in roast and brew.

These cafes are also a great place to soak in the afternoon, whether with friends or just alone watching life go by. Time stands still at these places, largely untouched although well maintained and retaining its original feel. 壹真咖啡店 in Ginza has a wonderful collection of art on the walls, old European furniture, accompanied by the finest china used to serve its coffee with.

So the next time you just want to escape from the bustle of the Tokyo subway, malls and crowded streets, steal into a cafe and enjoy a step back in time, while enjoying the perfect cuppa...

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