Gorilla Coffee {Ikebukuro}

Address: 1-12-1 Nishiikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo
Website: http://gorillacoffee.jp/
Open: 8:30am – 10pm
Soy Milk: Yes

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Gorilla Coffee, famous from New York City, has a new location in Ikebukuro out the South Exit near Lumine shopping mall (so not the side with Sunshine City most people use). And since that is my neighbourhood, of course I had to go and check it out. The cafe is pretty big – don’t be deceived by the standing-room-only downstairs (but with convenient outlets to recharge your phone), because there is plenty of room upstairs. The cafe’s style is modern, and upstairs looks like an industrial city loft with concrete, unfinished wood, and exposed ventilation shafts and beams. You can find plenty of Banksy art books to browse through while you’re sitting there, and the walls are covered with stickers and graffiti.

But what about the food? Well, Gorilla Coffee boasts a wide selection of sweets including very decadent cakes alongside more simple baked goods and plenty of puddings and other mysterious sweets in jars that I’m not entirely sure what they are (like something called bread in a jar). It also has a selection of savoury food including a lot of sandwiches, and my personal favourite, the egg slut. If the name isn’t enough to make you interested, an egg slut is an egg, bacon mashed potatoes, and basil sauce all cooked together in a glass jar and served with crusty bread for dipping – fantastic! And mashed potatoes in Japan are an amazing find!

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And of course, that brings us to the coffee. Gorilla has all the usual suspects along with a few more unique flavours. I’m not a fan of iced coffee, but I’m curious to try Monkey Business sometime, which is cinnamon, cloves, and honey mixed with rice milk. They also have American style, which is apparently cola and coffee mixed together. And finally, there are plenty of non-coffee drinks like choco-banana milkshakes and frozen lemonade too.

My personal favourite part? The baristas are more than happy to do the latte art at a low part of the counter in front of you so you can see them do it, and I love watching. Too bad the coffee doesn’t taste better – it’s okay of course, but definitely not my top choice. The food, though, is delicious!

Pros: Lots of seating, massive menu of sweets and savoury, unique flavours and choices
Cons: Coffee isn’t that great

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Coffee Prince {Shin-Okubo}

Address: Hyakunincho 2-2-3 TRN Shin-Okubo Building 3F, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Website: n/a
Open: 1pm – 6pm (weekdays), 1pm – 11:30pm (weekends)
Soy Milk: No

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Shin-Okubo is a part of Tokyo that has a shocking amount of good cafes, and they are all very conveniently close together. Much like in Korea, you can expect a lot of fancy sweets and crazy coffee flavours that you can’t usually find in Japan, so it’s nice to be able to get them right in Tokyo! One of my personal favourites is Coffee Prince, for a few reasons.

First, Coffee Prince is really, really large. It has a lot of seating and some really big tables, and a nice counter along the third floor window overlooking the busy main street of Shin-Okubo which is busy far into the night and great for people-watching. As far as food goes, there’s mostly waffles, ice cream, and crazy combinations of those two things. And cake, of course.

What really sets Coffee Prince apart from the rest though is the latte and chocolate art! If you speak Japanese you can try to make some requests about what you get (apparently you can get k-pop stars according to other blogs but I cannot confirm this and am not interested to try myself, sorry) but I have always let it be random. It seems that most of the time, you’re likely to get Disney, Ghibli, or One Piece! They also do some 3D foam animals depending on what drink you order. And it’s all at no extra cost!

I personally recommend the almond caramel latte (even though mine looked like it had a small dog slowly sinking into despair in it).

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And a huge selling point of Coffee Prince? While it is constantly playing k-pop like every cafe in Shin-Okubo, it’s not obnoxiously loud of overpowering, so if you don’t like it you can tune it out but if you do like it you can still enjoy it. At just a few minutes’ quick walk from the station, it’s a really fun place to spend time!

Pros: Free latte and chocolate art (including 3D), variety of sweets, space for bigger groups, great people watching
Cons: Closes early on weekdays, if you don’t want waffles or cake you’re out of luck, staff doesn’t understand always complicated Japanese (like special requests)

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Be a Good Neighbour {Asakusa / Sky Tree}

Address: 1-1-2 Sumida-ku, Tokyo, Sky Tree Town Soramachi 2F
Website: http://beagoodneighbor.net/
Open: 10am – 9pm
Soy Milk: No

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Be a Good Neighbour Coffee Kiosk is small and rather unassuming at first glance. There are locations in Roppongi and Sendagaya as well, but I personally stumbled upon the one at Sky Tree Town in Soramachi shopping centre. It just looked like a small wooden counter with a few scattered seats amongst all the other chain stores in the mall. But it was morning and I hadn’t had any coffee so we decided to try it out.

I’m really glad that we did! The menu was not very extensive but I ordered a cappuccino and it had a great flavour. Cappuccino is not usually my drink of choice but this one was very, very good. They also had a nice range of a few teas in addition to some other coffee drinks. Food choice was limited but the cookie I had tasted wonderful despite being pre-packaged. It was only a little bit sweet and a great compliment to the cappuccino. Admittedly I couldn’t open it on my own but the barista did it for me with some scissors and reassurances that it happens all the time.

I think that what Be a Good Neighbour has going for it is that it’s literally right under Sky Tree, so you can enjoy your coffee just outside on the sidewalk (there are a few benches and tables) and look straight up at the tower – that’s arguably an unbeatable view. Plus with all the chaos of Soramachi shopping centre, it’s nice to have a little place to relax and enjoy good coffee that isn’t just another Starbucks or Tully’s (of which Soramachi also has many). So if you’re visiting Sky Tree, check out Be a Good Neighbour for your coffee break!

Pros: Fantastic view of Sky Tree, Good cookies, friendly and helpful staff
Cons: Limited menu (especially food), limited seating, busy location

Coffee Valley {Ikebukuro}

Address: 2-26-3 Minami Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://coffeevalley.tumblr.com/
Open: 8am – 10pm
Soy Milk: Yes

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I love living near Ikebukuro, it’s a very convenient and fun area of Tokyo to be in. There’s always plenty to do and see, loads of restaurants and shopping, and plenty of unique things like Japan’s largest PokeCentre and the world’s biggest anime store. But what Ikebukuro is severely lacking in is non-chain coffee shops. Thankfully, I recently discovered an exception – Coffee Valley.

Less than ten minute’s walk from the East side of Ikebukuro station, Coffee Valley is tucked down a small alleyway with a tiny door and sign, so it’s very easy to miss so be ready to use your phone the first time you visit. But once you’re inside, the cafe is surprisingly big with a decent-sized upstairs and quite a few tables, as well as a long counter. The interior is minimalist and all light woods, making it feel very warm and cosy.

Then there’s the coffee, which is arguably some of the best-tasting I have had in Tokyo. Coffee Valley is a proper espresso shop, with most of it’s drinks featuring their espresso. My recommendation if you are only going to stop by once is to try the “Three Peaks,” which is their speciality. It is a sample of three cups at once – one shot of espresso, one cup of their drip coffee, and one macchiato. Though their mocha and cappuccino are very good, too!

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Coffee Valley doesn’t have a lot of food to pick from, but everything I have tried has been delicious. I also recommend their toast plate, which is a thick slice of really good bread, lightly toasted, with honey and butter on the side and a hard boiled egg. It’s a perfect side dish for their coffee!

Pros: Amazing espresso, plenty of seats, quiet atmosphere, nice interior
Cons: Difficult to find, staff not always extremely friendly to outsiders. not a wide selection of food

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Cafe Reissue {Harajuku}

Address: 3-25-7 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://reissue.jp/
Open: 12pm – 11pm
Soy Milk: No

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Cafe Reissue is so small, you’re likely to miss it if you don’t know what you are looking for. The first time that I found it, it was a total accident. I was actually on my way to the nearby Streamer Coffee Company and happened to glance over to see a small sign with pictures of amazing latte art on it. I made a mental note to come back later to check it out, and I am really glad that I did.

Only a few minutes walk from the famous Takeshita Dori in Harajuku, and up a very small staircase with only a small sign, you will find Cafe Reissue. It has a very homey interior of mix-matched chairs, a few tables, and a lot of old books. The baristas there are very friendly, and willing to take your phone number and give you a call if there isn’t currently a seat available to come back when there is because there isn’t any spae to wait. And it is definitely worth the wait.

What makes Cafe Reissue so unique is undoubtedly the latte art. For an extra 400 yen, you can request anything that you want in your coffee, and either in 2D or 3D style (I’ve had one of each so far). How can they do anything, you ask? Well the menu has a very interesting infographic to explain it to you, but I’ll tell you here as well. All you have to do is pull up a picture on your mobile phone, and they will take a picture of your screen and then disappear to make the magic happen. You can even get real photos done this way of your pets or family! The man next to me my first trip got a picture done of his cat.

So if you’re really into latte art, and especially if you have more obscure interests (such as me and giant squid, I absolutely love them and my squid art will always be special to me!) this is a great place to check out. You can luckily get latte art on most of their hot drinks, including hot cocoa if you don’t like coffee. Cafe Reissue also has some food and cake as well if you’re hungry, but the main draw is definitely the art!

Pros: Best latte art ever, super unique experience every time, really nice staff
Cons: Very expensive if you want art (base coffee price is around 600 yen and the art is another 400 yen), limited seating, very busy during peak times

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Sarutahiko Coffee {Ebisu}

Address: 1-6-6, Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://sarutahiko.co/
Open: 8am – 12:30am (Mon – Fri), 9am – 12:30am (Sat, Sun, Hol)
Soy Milk: Yes

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Sarutahiko Coffee has a few locations in Tokyo, but so far I have only had the chance to visit the original Ebisu one. The cafe is super easy to find if you go out the Garden Plaza gates from Ebisu station, and is less than a five minute walk away. If it isn’t too busy, you’re likely to be greeted on the street by a very friendly barista more than willing to talk to you, and often to give you a free sample of the coffee!

When you enter Sarutahiko, you’ll notice it is actually quite small – the seating inside is limited (though they do have very minimal seating outside the front of the cafe as well, but be ready to sit next to a main road). The décor is rustic and charming though, with a lot of unfinished wood surfaces and country-style touches. Sarautahiko easily has some of the nicest baristas and staff I have ever met in Tokyo, willing to answer questions and help you as much as possible, and several do speak a little bit of English.

As for the all-important coffee – I’ve had a few things, but my recommendation is the honey latte. Unlike the drink of the same name you can find at Tully’s, Saratuhiko’s honey latte has a very strong, natural, biting honey flavour that is in no way subtle. If you don’t like honey though, don’t fear, because there are plenty of other more traditional choices as well! And be sure to get a paper cup at least once, because the art is unique to Saratuhiko only and is really beautiful.

Don’t come hungry – while the coffee is really great, the only food I have ever seen offered is a very light honey cookie, and some chocolates. But if you’re just looking for a good drink, Saratuhiko is worth a visit.

Pros: Friendly staff, convenient location, delicious coffee, original cups, long opening hours
Cons: Extremely limited seating, almost no food

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Streamer Coffee Company [Harajuku/Shibuya]

Address: 3-28-19, Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo [Harajuku location], 1F 1-20-28, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo [Shibuya Location]
Website: http://streamercoffee.com/
Open: 9am – 6pm (Mon – Fri), 11am – 6pm (Sat, Sun, Hol)
Soy Milk: Yes (extra cost)

Admittedly, I’m not sure where to start on this blog, so I after procrastinating for a week, I’ve finally settled on my first post.

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Streamer Coffee Company is known for something very special – really fantastic latte art. I don’t mean the kind that looks like your pet cat or Pikachu this time, but rather very traditional tulips, hearts, and more. However, they look absolutely perfect! You know a cafe is serious about its latte art when the picture in their window is a decal of a free pour tulip.

Speaking of the building, Streamer looks awesome! There are two locations in Tokyo, one between Shibuya and Harajuku that is quite small (only one room, quite limited seating but a very friendly and comfortable atmosphere) and one much larger one just off Harajuku St and Cat St in Harajuku. This building is incredibly unique – it looks like three shipping crates stacked on top of one another, sitting right on the corner of an intersection. Expect an industrial, modern interior with concrete floors, grated metal stairs, and leather sofas. The top floor also has a balcony so you can people watch while you enjoy your drink.

As for the menu, Streamer offers the usual suspects, along with a seasonal drink. When I was there, it was a honey milk latte, though I ordered my usual mocha. As expected, the art on my mocha was beautiful, and the taste was great – very dark, and pleasantly bitter.

Pros: Good coffee, convenient location, unique building
Cons: Closes at 6PM so not great for going after work, limited seating, minimal food

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