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Kumamoto, Japan (2for1)

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  • Kumamoto, Japan (2for1)

    Espresso coffee culture has historically not really been a "thing" in Japan, with the broader market being largely dominated by American style drip-swill (think the American diners you see on TV with the pots of scalding hot coffee that have been sitting around for hours), canned/bottled coffee and the occasional "espresso" based coffee out of some horrific super-auto (most Starbucks don't even bother with the pretense of non-super-auto machines). There are quite a few specialty coffee houses, and some of them very decent, but they generally serve siphon or pour-over coffee (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    My partner and I were in Japan over the New Years 19-20 period and bearing the above in mind, imagine my astonishment when I discover not one but TWO places that do good espresso based coffee within the same area (one decent the other exceptional).

    Vito Kumamoto Shimotori
    1-4-15 Shimotori,
    Chuo-ku,
    Kumamoto 860-0807
    Kumamoto Prefecture

    On one of our last days in Kamitori we'd spent some time shopping in Kamitori and Shimotori (a couple of huge undercover streets which are basically sort-of outdoor shopping centres) and I'd spotted a La Marzocco FB/80 sitting on the counter as we were walking past, it was getting to that time when my caffeine dependency started reasserting itself so I though "why not, let's give it a try".

    Astonishingly enough they actually produced a good Mocha (my "safe" option, even if the espresso isn't great I can usually still drink it) underpinned by a pretty well-rounded espresso shot, not quite up to "Melbourne" standards but still very palatable, certainly would've been happy with a Latte from them.

    Park Side Coffee & Tea
    7-7-1 Kamitoricho,
    Chuo-Ku Omoken Park,
    Kumamoto 860-0845
    Kumamoto Prefecture

    We'd also seen this place a couple of times walking by and thought it seemed very out of place with its minimalist Scandinavian style decor and light, open aspect, looking more like something you'd find in one of the more hipster-ish suburbs in Melbourne. I'd spotted the La Marzocco Linea on the bench and made a note, and after the surprisingly positive experience at Vito decided it was maybe worth a look.

    Turns out it was worth WAY more than just a look, I ordered a Latte and was blown away, this cafe produces coffee to rival the best cafes in Melbourne. I'd confidently have ordered espresso from them if it were on the menu (generally speaking my confidence in any given barista is inversely proportional to the amount of milk (and in particularly dire circumstances adulterants) I ask them to add ) and we told them as much.

    A side note here though, these places aren't cheap, but they're really not that expensive compared to some of the cafes here, and after three weeks of typical Japanese coffee was 100% worth the extra money

  • #2
    There’s quite a few western coffee companies setting up in Japan now as well. Off the top of my head I can think of Coffee Supreme and Verve, but there’s others as well. And if you’re in Tokyo you can always try your luck and see if Mr Tanaka at Bear Pond Espresso has his happy pants on. More than a few other good local cafes though. My cousin own a couple of cafes in Sydney and he spent a day going round a few in Tokyo about 18 months ago and was pretty impressed by most of them.

    Comment


    • jbrewster
      jbrewster commented
      Editing a comment
      Yeah, there's evidently been quite a bit of development in the past few years (last time we were there was 2014), owing to past experiences we generally avoided any "espresso" places, but next time we go back we'll certainly have to try some more.

      As far as Tokyo goes, we generally spend as little time as possible there (largely owing to my better half's limited tolerance for her family who live there ), but I'll certainly keep an eye out and a more open mind next time around.
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