The Ginza and coffee connection goes back a long way. The foreign drink became popular with Japanese people as they opened up to the world at the end of the 19th century and Ginza was the stylish ground zero for all things new and modern. Much like Paris, the coffee shops in Ginza were where Japanese artists and writers gathered for sipping brews and discussing culture. In the early 1900s the Tokyo youth coined the term “Gin-Bura” meaning to go hang out in Ginza and have a cup of “Bura” (short for “Burajiru,” the Japanese pronunciation of Brazil).

Coffee was banned during World War II, due to the anti-Western sentiment at the time and more importantly, because the government felt that drinking coffee went hand in hand with discussing politics. Luckily, the ban didn’t stick for long, and today we have a wealth of cafés to choose from in Ginza. From kissaten that have been in the area since the early 1900s to the new shiny minimalist single-origin coffee shops, here are some Ginza coffee shops we recommend.

1. Café Paulista — Ginza’s Oldest Café

Opened in 1910, Café Paulista is thought to be the origin of all classic kissaten in Japan. It’s one of the first coffee chains in the world and is currently the oldest café in operation in Tokyo. The current building, however, is from 1970, exuding plenty of vintage charm with leather booths and chandeliers. Throughout the century, famous writers gathered at Paulista. John Lenon and Yoko Ono also visited.

The café’s Brazil connection is both in the coffee beans and in the name, as Paulista is derived from Sao Paolo. The founder Ryo Mizuno received free coffee beans from Brazil and subsequently kickstarted his business.

Café Paulista serves only Brazilian coffee to this day. Of course, there is the classic kissaten brew, strong and dark. The Old Paulista is the strongest they have, but there are also milder organic beans. You can opt for espresso or cappuccino too. Sets with cakes or sandwiches are popular. On your way out you can buy beans and various gifts.

2. Tricolore Ginza — European Aesthetics

Tucked in a side street next to Ginza Six, Tricolore Ginza is another one of Ginza’s legacy coffee shops from the first coffee wave. Opened in 1936, the brick wall European-like structure houses two floors with gold-rimmed counters, red velvet chairs and immaculate porcelain. The coffee selection is extensive and expensive, with value sets if you order a cake or a sandwich with your cup of coffee. The apple pie is in high demand, as well as the changing seasonal desserts. 

The coffee beans are harvested in the mountains in Central and South America and are
carefully extracted using a Japanese kissaten-style cloth filter. This results in a very rich brew. If you order a latte it comes with a bit of showmanship — staff will come and pour it simultaneously into your cup from a pitcher of coffee and a pitcher of milk.

3. Geshary Coffee — Specialized Single-Origin Beans

The Ginza coffee scene is also keeping up with the times and in recent years third wave specialty coffee started popping up. Among those, Geshary Coffee in Hibiya stands out as it offers only one coffee variety: Gesha (also known as Geisha). This Ethiopian coffee is one of the world’s most expensive and there’s hardly a barista in the world who hasn’t raved about these fragrant floral coffee beans.

The sleek Geshary Coffee shop offers a choice of Gesha beans from different farms and elevations. Then, you can choose the method of preparation. Most specialty coffee shops tend to prepare Gesha with a drip method, but at Geshary Coffee you can try it in a rare velvety espresso form, latte, affogato, and in sweets such as tiramisu, coffee pudding and traditional wagashi sweets. The luxurious coffee and delicate sweets are a treat worth the higher price point (which is expected in Ginza).

You can buy coffee beans, cold brew bottled coffee and the signature blue coffee cups and mugs.

4. Knots Coffee Roasters — Convenience and Quality

Part of the 6th by Oriental Hotel, Knots Coffee Roasters brews excellent coffee both for sipping leisurely at the hotel’s restaurant and as a convenient and cheaper to-go option as it’s just outside Yurakucho Station. The coffee counter offers two types of roasts (a lighter and a darker one) and a choice of milk varieties for your espresso or latte. The result is invariably a tasty specialty coffee drink. The signature sweet is the Basque-style cheesecake, but there are also brownies, muffins, as well as changing seasonal offerings.

Coffeeholics might want to take advantage of the monthly membership flat fee which means unlimited coffee and discounted sweets.

5. Bundoza Cafe & Bar — Coffee All Day and All Night

Another café in a hotel, Bundoza is a welcoming space with exposed brick walls and jaunty yellow tables and chairs for al fresco moments and people-watching. Situated on the first floor of The Square Hotel Ginza, Bundoza stays open until midnight, which is almost unheard of for coffee shops and good news for night owls. It also has free Wi-Fi and a relaxed unhurried atmosphere perfect for reading a book or a bit of remote work.

Bundoza offers great specialty coffee beans prepared as drip, espresso, flavored lattes, as well as trendier options such as espresso tonic and affogato. Boozy option in the evening include the Shakerato and the espresso martini.

6. Bongen Coffee Tokyo — Japanese Minimalism

Tucked in the quiet backstreets of Ginza and not far from Tsukiji, Bongen Coffee itself is quietly unassuming yet easily catches your attention. The small coffee shop is imbued with Japanese aesthetics such as the conspicuous centerpiece which is a living bonsai tree, the noren curtain out front and the framed menu in traditional vertical writing reminiscent of traditional Japanese restaurants. The sweets on offer are Japanese wagashi called monaka, wrapped in washi paper with a bonsai print. This attention to detail and interior design is one of the major reasons for Bongen’s popularity. The other one is the specialty coffee that is handled completely in-store from selecting and purchasing to roasting. Bongen favors a soft, mild taste on the whole but offers a choice between lighter and darker roasts.

Behind the counter, knowledgeable staff members offer a variety of specialty coffee beans, both to choose for your drink and to buy in bags for home brewing. You can also buy high-quality coffeemaking equipment and original Bongen coffee cups, cans, bottles etc. Much like other small minimalist specialty coffee shops, seating is extremely limited.

7. Think’a Sake & Coffee — Best of Both Worlds

While most coffee shops focus purely on coffee, Think’a Sake and Coffee excels in both coffee and alcohol (sake in Japanese means alcohol in general). The establishment also offers freshly cooked healthy vegetable-focused foods and snacks as well as coffee goods that have won design awards.

There’s an exciting selection of Japanese sake, rare natural wines, craft beers and ciders that you won’t find on every menu in Tokyo. The coffee features specialty coffee beans served in a variety of drinks from a proper espresso macchiato and a refined drip to trendier cold brew and even milk brew.

The space has minimalist decor, natural light and plenty of tables and counter seats. Just a few steps from the Ginza Kabukiza Theatre, it’s easily accessible yet hidden enough to ensure a calm atmosphere.

8. Uniqlo Coffee — Affordable High Quality

The 12-floor Ginza Uniqlo is the company’s flagship store and the biggest Uniqlo in the world. It’s also the only one offering specialty coffee on its top floor, which is as good as dedicated coffee shops. Unlike most coffee shops in Tokyo though, Uniqlo Coffee serves fancy Gesha coffee hand drip at an affordable ¥450. The Original Uniqlo Blend that’s pleasantly strong and bitter goes for only ¥200 and doesn’t compromise in quality. Original branded butter cookies and dorayaki sweets are on the menu too and pair well with the coffee.

The store’s design is clean and minimal with limited counter seats and a takeaway option. Great for a break from shopping, but also worth a visit just for the coffee. You can buy original Uniqlo mugs, tumblers and coffee beans as a souvenir before you leave.

 


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Photos by Zoria Petkoska