Third Wave Coffee Hits Tokyo’s Shores

I’m going to let you in on a Tokyo secret: there’s a revolution going on here. A coffee revolution.

The Japanese are seasoned coffee drinkers. The beverage has been mainstream popular since the 1960s. It can now be found in every home and workplace as well as on every other corner (hot canned coffee from a vending machine, anyone?). If you’re interested in delving into the history of coffee in this part of the world, check out this terrific Tofugu blog post on the topic.

The latest chapter in the annals of Japanese coffee is the arrival of Third Wave Coffee. As with all revolutions, this one has been led by the rebels, the risk-takers, the outsiders. Their attitude is grassroots and their movement has been bottom-up. United by the shared goal of educating Japanese coffee drinkers about the finer side of coffee, they’ve grouped together to form a close-knit community of coffee connoisseurs.

I know all this because Yoshi, my other half, is one of them. Trained in Australia, he arrived on the Tokyo coffee scene almost a year ago and was welcomed with open arms. This – the emphasis on solidarity over competitiveness – strikes me as one of the major differences between the two countries.

The movement has really kicked into gear in the last 18 months, and sometimes it feels like there’s a new place opening up every other week. In my list of favorites below, the oldest of the bunch, Be a Good Neighbor, just celebrated their second birthday. It’s super exciting, especially if you love coffee as much as I do!

So, next time you’re in Tokyo, and in need of a cup of coffee, check one of these places out. You’ll be supporting a group of passionate, coffee-obsessed change-makers, and the advancement of Japan’s Third Wave. Oh, and the coffee’s pretty darn tasty too!

Yoshi with Amameria’s Pon.

Amameria Espresso
(Their Gibraltar is to die for!)
3-6-15 Koyama
Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

No. 8 Bear Pond
1-17-1 Shibuya
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

Sarutahiko Coffee
1-6-6 Ebisu
Shibuy-ku, Tokyo

Onibus Coffee
5-1-4 Okusawa
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo

Be a Good Neighbor
3-51-6 Sendagaya
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

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Natalia

Natalia is an Australian living out the latest chapter of a 15-year love affair with Japan as an expat in Tokyo. By weekday, she manages the 6000-strong translator community at Gengo. Weekends are usually spent exploring nearby Shibuya and seeking out foodie haunts. In addition to food and Japan, Natalia is a huge fan of coffee, snowboarding, vampire fiction (joking! Maybe..) and Michael Jackson.

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9 Comments

  1. says:

    April 2, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    Interesting! We see this kind of thing happening in China to a smaller scale. Fisheye Coffee imports Ritual Coffee from SF and Oceans Ground at U-town Mall, Beijing has a pretty great rep for all its artisanal brews and variety. Though problem is, none of this comes cheap. Easily $7+ for a latte!

  2. Natalia says:

    April 6, 2012 at 9:28 PM

    It’s a sign of the week I’ve had that it’s taken me until now to respond – phew! :)

    Fantastic to hear that it’s happening in China too! These kind of movements are super interesting and invigorating, even for the innocent bystanders!

    $7 for a latte though – eek!!

    Thanks for the fantastic feedback, guys.

  3. scott says:

    June 1, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Anything outside of Tokyo? Kyushu or Nishi Nippon by chance? I don’t get up to the Kanto area much.

    • Natalia says:

      June 2, 2012 at 10:13 PM

      Hey Scott, i′ll do some research and get back to you. Off the top of my head, i know the coffee Be a Good Neighbor uses is supplied by a Kyushu-based place and i’ve heard Kyoto has a great scene as well so you might be in luck! :)

    • Natalia says:

      June 7, 2012 at 6:25 PM

      Hello again! Be A Good Neighbor’s coffee supplier is called Voila. Their site is at http://www.inouecoffee.com/ and they list a bunch of places that they supply to there. I’d love to hear if they’re any good if you end up checking them out. I’ll let you know if I find out more.

  4. says:

    October 20, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    Hi Natalia,

    Thanks for your great post. We are two Australians (+ 2 kids) living in UK. We are heading back through Tokyo on the way to visit family in Sydney in December. I am stuck as to where to stay area wise. We would love to be in an area that ideally has cafes (hence the search that came up with this), bookshops but also access to explore (albeit tamely with kids) Tokyo. Could you be so kind as to helpfully recommend anything or any helpful books? I have found your posts delightful thank you.

    Rowan

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