After arriving back into Tokyo on our bullet train over three hours late, which was something like the third latest train in the history of the bullet train, for reasons that are too depressing to explain, we made it out into the flashy lights of Shinjuku and Shibuya taking a wander around Tower Records before stumbling across this joint.
Sadly we didn’t find the time to make it out of the city to Bear Pond Espresso and so we thought it best to at least pop our heads into On The Corner, Bear Pond’s little sister coffee spot and restaurant. Walking in, you’re straight on top of the coffee counter where they serve a range of espresso based beverages with milk. I knew the answer to my question before I even asked it, but I asked if it was possible to get an espresso, No was the obvious answer, so I asked it if were possible to get a latte without the milk? Either that question has been asked too many times or either its no where near as witty as it sounded in my head, because a serious shake of the head came back my way. I ordered a cappuccino instead. For those of you unfamiliar with Bear Ponds philosophy, espresso is only available from the Bear Pond original espresso store, exclusively pulled by Katsuyuki “Katsu” Tanaka and there’s only about 20 shots of ‘Angel Stain’ pulled a day, so you have to get up pretty early if you want one. We headed into the restaurant and ordered some fries to go with our late night cappuccino.
The cappuccino arrived in Bear Pond’s signature cups and I had to admit as cappuccinos go it looked pretty well made. Good contrast between the coffee and the milk, well sealed and with good definition, they clearly take their coffee seriously at Bear Pond. To taste it was mellow and sweet with flavours of milk chocolate and hints of floral aniseed. I don’t often drink coffee with milk in, but this was a pleasure. What’s more the fries were amazing too. Almost 10 at night and the place was full of a young and fun crowd eating and drinking, with a lot of coffee getting sold it’s clear this place was popular. Finishing up the cappuccino we headed back out into the night.
1-17-1 Shibuya Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0002 JAPAN
The next morning we woke up and decided it would be worth having our other coffee with milk back to back with last nights cappuccino, so we headed to the other predominant espresso store over in Shibuya, Streamer Coffee Company. Walls lined with skateboards they clearly have an affinity with the extreme sports community, but they have a strict no photos policy in store, so if you want to see, I’m afraid you’ll have to go look for yourself. Famous for their latte art freepours, we made our way to the counter at the back of the store to order some and watch the magic happen.
Now I know I just said there was a ‘no photo’ policy in force here, but we asked nicely if we could take some photos of the coffee after such dedicated pours and the staff begrudgingly agreed. Pulling their espresso on two custom designed Slayer espresso machines the barista then set about her free pours with impressive skill, knocking up the two you can see in the pictures above. I’ve heard Brian Williams say many times before that you can tell the difference between great latte art and good latte art by whether the pattern stays all the way to the bottom as you sip it. So for everyone’s benefit I set about testing that theory.
The results were pretty unmistakable, a coffee that held its shape from start to finish. Shape and milk textures are all well and good, as impressive and photo worthy as they might be, but my personal preference is for taste and flavour above all else, but I wasn’t disappointed here either, a latte that tasted of chai spices with hints of cinnamon and a deep caramel sweetness. It’s clear that well extracted espresso and well textured milk are needed for the best latte art, but also make for well developed flavour, so latte art might not be all about style over substance, but a mastery of both style and substance and Streamer Espresso seem to be pretty good at both.
1F 1-20-28, Shibuya,Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Fancying a cup of black filter coffee, we popped into the Roastery by Nozy Coffee to try some of their inhouse roasted coffee. Arriving at opening time we were a little early, but the friendly staff invited us in anyway and were happy to take our orders.
Having a look over the pretty large range of origins they had on offer and having a smell of a few of the beans on my way round I settled on the Las Moras from Honduras brewed in french press. It was becoming less unusual for me, while in Japan to see roasted beans out available to smell before ordering and to have them brewed in a french press. Taking a seat next to the Probatone 12, so we could see some of the action while we waited for our coffees, we chatted over the sound of the roasters drum turning in the background.
I didn’t order a cappuccino, not this time, but I did forget to take a picture of my coffee, such was my desire for a cup of black coffee. I did manage to note an aroma of rich chocolatey oranges and cherries and remember to write down flavours of chocolate with a bright orange and lemon acidity, cooling to some ripe cherry fruit. A coffee that offered an impressive degree of clarity from the french press. I think I was also a bit distracted by a friendly member of staff who came to talk to us about the need for us to go see Studio Ghibli. We hadn’t been planning on going because of the difficulties of getting there and the time that would be taken out of our trip to do so, even though I’ve seen every movie in the Ghibli collection. In the end he left us convinced that it was worth it, but sadly there were no tickets left on any of the days we had left in Japan. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. At least the coffee was great though.
5−17−13 Jingu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0001