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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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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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