LATTEST {Omotesando}

Address: 3-5-2 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Website: http://lattest.jp/
Open: 10am – 7pm
Soy Milk: Yes

I had been wanting to try LATTEST for a while since I had walked past the cafe a few times before, but it closes too early for me to go after work, so it took a while for me to get the chance to go. Finally last weekend I was able to though! When I walked in, I immediately liked the interior of the cafe. Everything looked intentionally worn and cozy, giving the cafe a very comfortable, homey feeling. It just had one big table in the centre, with smaller tables scattered around the rest of the cafe with mix-matched chairs. The floors were concrete with graffiti, and the bar itself all made of wood. I liked it already.

It took a bit of time to get a seat because it was quite busy and no one seemed to be moving very quickly, but once we had a table we went up to check out the menu. LATTEST features a lot of different latte flavours, including hazelnut, matcha, and Bailey’s. They also have a drink called the “lattest,” which is their house special – a shot glass filled with milk and espresso. It’s quite expensive for a small amount of coffee so I gave it a pass this time, but it was incredibly popular amongst the other patrons of the cafe. As a fan of Irish creme flavour, I couldn’t pass up the Bailey’s latte.

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My latte definitely tasted like Bailey’s – and it was real alcohol that they put in it, not just flavouring, from the taste. Because I don’t drink alcohol personally I wasn’t very happy about that, but to someone who does, it’s a great chance to enjoy that kind fo coffee! My sister ordered a soy matcha latte, and typically soy never has latte art on it. However, at LATTEST, even her soy latte had a beautiful design! Sadly the coffee wasn’t very hot though, which was a bit strange.

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We stayed at LATTEST for a little while but it was actually quite loud and hard to hear one another, so it wasn’t very relaxing in the end. The acoustics in the cafe make everyone’s voices just a bit too overpowering. Overall I liked the aesthetics of the cafe and the chance to get some different kinds of lattes, but it wasn’t a good place for reading or writing, and the coffee should have been served hotter in my personal opinion. I hope to give it a second chance sometime, but I’m not in a hurry.

Pros: Variety of latte flavours, plenty of seats, cool interior
Cons: Coffee is not hot enough, too loud during busy periods, long waiting time

 

Lotus {Omotesando}

Address: 4-6-8 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Website: n/a
Open: 11am – 3am (Sun-Thur), 11am – 4am (Fri-Sat)
Soy Milk: Yes

I finish work kind of late, so I found Lotus looking for somewhere that is open late on weeknights – and Lotus certainly is, until 3am actually! Perfect for those of us out late and not able to go to all the cafes that seem to close at 7pm. It’s a short walk from Omotesando station, and about 10-15 minutes from Harajuku station through quite a nice area. Be careful you don’t walk past the cafe like I did the first time – it’s not very well marked or distinct from the outside, with dark windows and only a small sign written in katakana (ロータス). Watch your GPS if you aren’t sure the first time.

When you enter Lotus, you’re greeted with the large glass case of today’s sweets and cakes, opposite the open kitchen where they are making everything right there! It looks deceptively small, but in reality has a massive basement of seating in addition to the small area upstairs. Lotus offers a full menu of food, mostly Italian or fish, at really reasonable prices. And of course, a range of coffees and desserts! Some of the more unique things were the coconut latte, and the caramelised latte. We got both – the flavoured latte came with the syrup on the side for you to add as much as you want. And the caramelised latte literally had a creme brulee-style topping!

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The sweets were also incredible. I enjoyed an apple and sweet potato tart that was fantastic, but it was a hard choice. They had so much fresh fruit on top of their fruit tarts, and lots of chocolate options for lovers of that.

As for the atmosphere, Lotus had a very unique feeling. The lighting was quite dark, but it suited the ambience. The entire cafe had a very unfinished or weathered look tot eh decor – lots of unfinished concrete and rough edges. It was a casual atmosphere that was easy to relax in. Plus, our waitress was incredibly nice (it was table service, not counter service) and happy to chat with us for a little bit too. I’ll definitely be going back to Lotus when I’m looking for somewhere open late (and next time for food too I think).

Pros: Lots of choices, great prices, open incredibly late, casual atmosphere, good service
Cons: Easy to miss, quite off the beaten path, dark lighting (don’t come here to study, write, or read too late at night)

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(Travel Special) All Day Coffee {Osaka – Umeda}

Address: 4-1 Grand Front Osaka, Umekita Square, B1F, Kita-ku, Osaka
Website: n/a
Open: 10am – 10pm
Soy Milk: No

All Day Coffee is admittedly a bit difficult to find if you are like me and don’t know Osaka well, but it’s worth the small challenge if you’re looking for coffee from somewhere other than Starbucks. Osaka / Umeda Station is a very busy place, with so many shopping malls attached to it and surrounding it, but very few independent coffee shops! So near the station, head over to Grand Front Osaka and find one of the many escalators leading into the basement. There, tucked away amongst a lot of other restaurants, you’ll find All Day Coffee.

The setup of this cafe is very unique – it’s just one big square counter surrounding the baristas and their coffee making equipment. It means that there aren’t a lot of seats, but all the seats are good ones in my opinion because you can watch the baristas making the coffee. It does mean that there are no normal tables, so if you come with a friend, be ready to sit side-by-side counter style.

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The aesthetic is nice though, and makes you feel like you’re in a tiny New York City coffee bar with the decor. There’s a decent selection of coffee, and their latte art is very beautiful. The coffee is pretty good too – not the best, but certainly better than your average cup of coffee. They don’t have a lot of food to pick from, but their sweets that they did have looked great (I had sadly just eaten when I visited). They even had some gluten free sweets, which is extremely rare in Japan.

Overall, All Day Coffee may not be my favourite cafe I have ever been to, but if you want to escape from the hustle and bustle of Umeda or want somewhere a little more unique to wait for your train, check it out. If you can find it, it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the station and a nice time-out for an hour.

Pros: Unique bar-style set up, gluten free options, nice decor, near other food if you’re hungry
Cons: A little difficult to find, coffee is just okay, no actual table seating

Fuglen Tokyo {Yoyogi Park}

Address: 1-16-11 Tomigaya, Shibuya, Tokyo
Website: http://www.fuglen.com/
Open: 9am – 7pm (M-F), 10am – 7pm (S-S)
Soy Milk: Yes

Fuglen Tokyo is a cafe that actually originated in Oslo, Norway but luckily has a Tokyo location for those of us not in Scandinavia. The cafe is a bit of a walk from stations on the Yamanote (the closest are Shibuya and Harajuku) but is a short walk from Yoyogikoen on the Chiyoda line and Yoyogi-Hachiman on the Odakyu. But if the weather is nice, my suggestion is to enjoy the walk through Yoyogi Park from Harajuku station to get there!

Fuglen feels very different on the inside to other cafes I have visited in Tokyo. Admittedly, the decor feels a bit aged and ragged, but I think it adds to the place’s charm. It does maintain a very vintage European feel to it and it’s hard to remember you’re in Japan. If you don’t like that sort of setting though, Fuglen has a lot of seats outside along the side of the cafe on a very quiet street which is a great option. And it has a lot of outlets inside, which is definitely a selling point.

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Be ready for Oslo prices though – my mocha set me back almost 800 yen, which is very expensive for Tokyo. The flavour was fantastic though, it was one of the darkest, richest mochas I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. The chocolate flavour was much stronger than normal (which makes me incredibly tempted to try their hot chocolate next time). They don’t have a lot of food to offer, but when I last visited, they did have donuts from Good Town Doughnuts in Harajuku (which are very, very good ).

The hours that I posted for Fuglen are specifically for what is called “Daylife,” meaning the time it operates as a cafe and you are able to order coffee. The establishment continues to be open into the wee hours of the morning for a “Nightlife” version selling alcohol. Plan your timing carefully depending on what you want!

Pros: Fantastic coffee, lots of outlets, lots of seating inside and outside, unique charm
Cons: Very expensive, out of the way location, minimal food

Cafe MUIMUI {Shin-Okubo}

Address: 2 Chome-32-1 Okubo, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Website: n/a
Open: 11am – 12am
Soy Milk: No

Cafe MUIMUI is yet another coffee shop in Shin-Okubo that has coffee quite different than what you can find in the rest of Tokyo. A short walk from Shin-Okubo station, it’s easy to spot with a bright coloured awning on the second floor, with the name of the cafe prominently displayed. Inside, the cafe is very bright and cozy, with a decent amount of seats. My personal favourite seats are the small table overlooking the window, and the tiny loft where you can sit on the floor on the plush carpet (just take off your shoes, first!).

What really sets Cafe MUIMUI apart from the rest is the large selection of flavours of coffee available!  Some of my personal favourites are cinnamon roll, creme brulee, sweet potato, chocolate cookie, and hazelnut caramel – and that’s just naming a few. Besides coffee, they also have a lot of milkshakes, smoothies, and fruit juices too, and  I really do mean they have a lot. They have always done some beautiful traditional latte art at as well, but the last time I went, they also did some great 3D art which was a nice surprise! They also serve iced coffee in mason jars, and while I don’t like iced coffee myself, they looked great.

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So what about food? Cafe MUIMUI has a lot to pick from! There is a whole page of savoury foods (be warned, it is only written in Japanese and there are no pictures) as well as really delicious cake, and waffles. I recommend the waffles, you can get them with peanut butter, chocolate and banana, blueberry cream cheese, or strawberries! The set price isn’t bad either to get them with a drink.

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Be warned – Cafe MUIMUI does play constant k-pop when you are there on two massive screens, but it’s not overwhelmingly loud so you can ignore it if you’re talking with a friend and k-pop isn’t really your thing. It’s a bit on the expensive side but the coffee is great and it’s definitely more unique than an average coffee shop, and with its late opening hours I recommend it for an evening out with friends.

Pros: Great selection of flavours for coffee, many alternative drinks to coffee, open late, lots of seats with big tables, plenty of good food
Cons: Expensive, cakes sell out quite early in the day

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Deus ex Machina {Harajuku}

Address: 3-29-5 Jingumae, Harajuku, Tokyo
Website: http://deuscustoms.com/cafes/harajuku/
Open: 9am – 9pm (M-F), 9am – 8pm (S-S)
Soy Milk: Yes

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When we first approached Deus ex Machina, I was already in love. I really like industrial and modern designs, and the slate grey, square building with the small metal door and floor to ceiling windows was exactly to my tastes. We stepped inside to a spacious cafe with long tables, multiple levels, an exposed staircase, dark wood and metal everywhere. A little bit of a walk from Harajuku station, but the area around Harajuku Street and Cat Street is already really awesome, so it’s certainly not a boring trek.

Deus ex Machina has a really large menu of drinks, sweets, and sandwiches. I personally was very intrigued by the mocha and marshmallow sandwich, so that was what I ordered, along with the speciality drink – a maple latte. They also had the usual teas, coffee, and soda. They even boast sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, and pulled BBQ pork.

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It was a weeknight when I went, so we were able to sit and chat for a long time without it being very busy. The food was presented on awesome wooden plates with the shop’s logo in powdered sugar, and my lactose intolerant sister was very happy with the latte art on her soy latte. My maple latte didn’t taste necessarily like maple, but it was very sweet and undeniably delicious. I’ll be going back for a savoury sandwich next time – I could never have expected they would set a s’mores sandwich down in front of me. It was very good! But not for the faint of heart.

Pros: Large menu, lots of seating, unique building
Cons: Out of the way location, not many outlets, slow service

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The Local Coffee Stand {Shibuya}

Address: 2-10-15 Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://thelocal2016.com/
Open: 8am  – 8pm (M, Tu, W), 9am – 6 pm (Th, F), 9am – 7pm (Sa, Su)
Soy Milk: Yes

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The Local Coffee Stand is a bit of a walk away from the main part of Shibuya, but if you’re looking for somewhere to relax away from all the chaos I recommend it all the same. Even saying this, it’s about 10 minutes’ walk from Hachiko Gate, so still not that far! It’s a bit easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it, but don’t judge it from it’s humble outside and small store front – it’s much bigger on the inside.

The Local advertises “to go” coffee, but you’re more than welcome to sit in as well. Downstairs there is hardly any seating at all, but there’s a lot of space upstairs with tables and sofas. The interior is a lot of unfinished, rustic wood, so if that’s your style you’ll be right at home. There are also a lot of outlets so great for recharging a phone, and free wifi if you want to use your laptop!

There isn’t a lot of food to pick from because the Local specialises in coffee, but the homemade melon pan that I had was very good and extremely cheap. The barista was also really friendly and happy to tell me about all the food they did have that day and made me feel welcome. I stayed for a long time writing in my notebook and no one minded at all. The mocha I had was good, but it was a smaller cup than cafes usually have for the same price, so that was the only disappointing thing.

Pros: Lots of outlets, free wifi, homemade sweets, friendly service, quiet atmosphere
Cons: Coffee is small for the price, varying hours of operation, not a lot of food choice

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