Just a 15-minute train ride from central Tokyo, Kiyosumi-Shirakawa is the residential area that is becoming increasingly popular as Tokyo’s new caffeine epicentre. From 2012 to 2014, more than 12 cafés were opened in this area, ranging from a café with small limited production to major industry. The area has long been the distribution hub where many factories and warehouses are still located. That makes Kiyosumi-Shirakawa the ideal place to install a coffee roasting machine.
Arise Coffee Roasters
Taiju Hayashi turned a previous timber warehouse into a café with room for a large coffee roasting machine. Since then, Arise Coffee Roasters has always been like a hub – a queue forms outside the shop every weekend. The success is partially due to all-smiles, friendliness and welcoming character of the owner who loves giving local recommendations and introducing you to whoever in the café.
On the counter, there were beans from different origins including a variety of fragrances and flavours. The barista let me smell all the beans first then I selected ones with a tea aroma and squeezed myself in front of the counter.
Arise Coffee Entangle
Seating inside Arise Coffee Roasters is extremely limited – a bench and a couple of armchairs. If you come in a group, I suggest you to visit Arise Coffee Entangle, the sister shop opened in 2014. The cafe is situated just a skateboarding distance from Arise Coffee Roasters. Both cafés were decorated in a similar way, but Arise Coffee Entangle has more space and more options on pastries.
I especially love their homemade chocolate pudding cake that went well with a cup of coffee. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, just try the baguette sandwiches. The bun is crisp, airy, and fresh, as if it’s just come out of the oven.
The Cream of the Crop Coffee
The Cream of the Crop Coffee was opened in 2012 on a quiet street just a stone’s throw from Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in a former timber warehouse. At first, the focus here was wholesale and roasting. The cosy café space was added later with a chic souvenir corner.
The café usually offers beans from six different countries including Ethiopia and Kenya, which are the best sellers. I decided to have a cup of iced coffee in that scorching hot day. Instead of regular ice, they used coffee ice cubes to keep the drink cold and strong till the last sip.
Most of the space is taken up with their roasting facility and beans storage. The nearby Kiba Park is recommended as a nicer environment to sip away.
It’s equally surprising that Allpress Espresso of New Zealand chose this quiet part of town as their Japanese base. “We needed to tear everything down and renovate the warehouse for more space, and tried our best to keep the spirit of the original building,” Allpress Espresso Sales and Media Assistant, Lily Gibson, told me about how this log cabin-style roaster café combination made its start.
Gibson reminded me that Japan has long had an established coffee culture. There have always been people with a deep fascination with quality beans and deep dark roasts. “Most of the customers are regulars who believe coffee is part of ritual. They wake up early for good coffee and good breakfast,” she added.
I may add that, aside from espresso, you have choices including latte, cappuccino, mocha, tea, juices and many more. To go with your coffee, the café provides English breakfast, toasts, sandwiches, etc. They also sell coffee beans in the store.
Monz Café is situated on the lively market street that leads to Fukagawa Fudo Temple, only a 15-minute walk from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Station. Monz Cafe was designed by Taiichiro Suzuki, the owner who has background in architecture and interior design. It specialises in espresso and also offers latte, flat white, Manuka honey and lemon juice.
What makes the café stand out from the coffee crowd is their various baking goods such as croissants, chocolate brownies, green tea brownies, pound cakes, and chiffon cakes. They also add some local touches, like seasonal ingredients to their pastry. At the time of my visit, it was matcha, fig and yomogi (Japanese mugwort).
Kiyosumi-Shirakawa may not look attractive at first glance but the place has a lot more to offer than good coffee. If you have time, be sure to check out Fukagawa shopping street and try traditional fares such as rice crackers and simmered clams.
Text and Photos by Tataya Kudo
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