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

 

(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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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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