I like coffee and I drink it everyday. Tokyo is full of cafes, many of them as part of a chain, many others as independently operated stores. If you are out and about everyday it is easiest to get your coffee from a chain store, and as a tourist Starbucks or any other coffee chain is a painless way to get your daily shot in a foreign country. Yet, Tokyo is full of alternatives where you can enjoy coffee as well as take in a bit of culture.
The independently operated cafes are a bit of a mixed bag, somethings good, sometimes bad. Most often cafes in Tokyo are seen as a place to have a simple lunch at noon and a cake in the afternoon. For that reason many of them only open at noon. Coffee is at these places often rather expensive, and they are not meant to get some work done with your laptop. A good example of such a cafe is Iriya Plus Cafe in the charming neighborhood of Iriya/Shitaya. Another category of cafes are the speciality coffee shops where you will pay a premium price for premium coffee such as at Café de l’Ambre in Ginza.
There is no shortage of chains if you want to avoid Starbucks. Doutour, Excelsior, Ueshima, Cafe de Crier, Cafe Veloce, Beck’s Coffee Shop and St Marc Cafe are the foremost Japanese coffee chains in Tokyo where you can hop in and out or spend some time to study or work. The foreign chains Tully’s and Honolulu coffee have also many cafes in Tokyo.
A couple of chains are a little bit more special than others.
1. Ginza Renoir: 1960s classic style
One of the most prominent classical style coffee chains in Tokyo. The current styling of the stores was fixed in the mid-1960s and you might feel that time has stopped at this coffee chain. What stands out though is their largely elderly customer base, but in the business areas also many salary man come here. The daily coffee for the hard working man. Read more.
Where? 95 Ginza Renoir and Cafe Renoir locations in and around Tokyo (map)
2. Tsubakiya coffee: rustic Taishō-roman
Tsubakiya coffee is a perfect example of a re-created Taishō style cafe. The coffee is served in Royal Copenhagen porcelain and the coffee is made with a siphon and tastes very good. All this comes with a hefty price tag of nearly JPY 1000 for one coffee, with refills available for JPY 300. The coffee is served by waitresses wearing a maid uniform, no relation with the otaku-style maid cafes. By far the most classy cafe around. Read more.
Where? 40 Tsubakiya coffee locations in and around Tokyo (map)
3. Hakushaku: Shōwa kitsch
Hakushaku cafe is a prime example of a Shōwa-style cafe offering a mixture of western-style memorabilia, from small statues, chandeliers, colourful carpets, comfy chairs and stained glass windows. The breakfast menu here is reasonably priced and the coffee is very strong. Read more.
Where? 3 Hakushaku locations: two locations in Ikebukuro (one near north exit and one near east exit) and one in Sugamo
喫茶室ルノアール (Ginza Renoir), 椿屋珈琲 (Tsubakiya Coffee), 伯爵 (Hakushaku)