Shinjuku is the beating pulse of commerical Tokyo, home to the city's largest skyscrapers, wildest red light district, massive and daunting department stores (including Isetan, an 100 year old landmark), and the iconic Shinjuku Station, the world's busiest train station. With all that travel and commerce, it's no wonder Shinjuku is also home to some of the city's best coffee.
Sprudge Tokyo correspondent Hengtee Lim continues his world-beating English language coverage of the Tokyo coffee scene below with this guide to 7 of Shinjuku's very best.
4/4 Seasons Coffee
4/4 Seasons Coffee (read: “All Seasons Coffee”) is a short walk from Shinjuku Gyoen, one of the largest parks in Tokyo. At 4/4 Seasons you’ll find Jun and Emi Saito, a couple dedicated to brewing the perfect cup for each season. Expect a selection of fruity, light-roasted coffee (they recently began roasting in-house!), a variety of homemade sweets, friendly smiles, and warm conversation.
Sarutahiko Coffee at Beams
The Beams Japan flagship store is home to food, fashion, design, pop culture, art, craft, and coffee. On the first floor is an ever-changing display of local products, with a single constant: a Sarutahiko Coffee stand. Think of Sarutahiko as a traditional-meets-modern coffee shop, with a hint of the kissaten in their approach. Expect a darker-roasted coffee, polite staff, and an overload of interesting design.
Open since 1946, Yamamoto Coffee is a one-stop shop for coffee and equipment—not only do they roast, they also stock brewing equipment, grinders, roasters, and spare parts. The basement level is more of the same, with a focus on tea. Expect to get lost looking for whatever it is you came for, and to leave with more than you expected.
Blue Bottle Coffee
The pristine white and warm wooden interior of Blue Bottle Shinjuku, which opened as part of the newly renovated Shinjuku Station/NeWoMan shopping center, is perennially full with travelers and locals alike. Watching the customer flow here is a little like watching an assembly line for carefully made coffee. Expect smooth service and the constant buzz of conversation.
Verve Coffee Roasters
The busy heart of Shinjuku Station also hides a little slice of Santa Cruz at Verve Coffee Roasters. The tiled floors and wooden interior give the location warmth, and the coffee selection often offers coffee you won’t find anywhere else in Japan. Get a cup to go and head out to the viewing platform a short walk from the shop; here you can watch some of the trains that roll in and out of the world’s busiest train station. Expect to have a little trouble finding a seat, and to be tempted by Camden's Blue Star Donuts on the side.
Cobi Coffee at Bloom & Branch
I almost didn’t want to share Cobi Coffee, because it’s a personal go-to for a quiet cup of coffee. While Blue Bottle and Verve see a constant flow of people, Cobi Coffee is a space of calm built into Bloom & Branch, a select shop with a focus on quality vintage fashion that tells a story. Inside the Cobi Coffee box, baristas quietly brew Hario Nel Drip and AeroPress coffees with single-origin beans from Obscura Coffee Roasters. Expect a relaxed cup of coffee served in a ceramic cup, and to be utterly charmed.
Dig into the backstories of many a third wave coffee roaster in Tokyo and you’ll find their careers started at Paul Bassett Shinjuku, located on the west side of Shinjuku Station. Former home to the 2014 World AeroPress Champion Shuichi Sasaki, Paul Bassett is a huge space as far as cafes go, and unsurprisingly, they do a very mean AeroPress. Expect to ask the barista for recipes (they make the coffee right in front of you), and to feel like drinking a cup of whichever selection you didn’t choose the first time around.
Note: It’s worth mentioning that Shinjuku is also home to a huge number of fascinating kissaten coffee shops with long storied pasts and suitably old coffees to go with them. And while there were a few I wanted to add to this list, I feel that the kissaten scene—with its unique history and style—is best given a list of its own, so I hope you’ll look forward to that sometime later this year!