Koenji has become the epitome of effortless cool in Tokyo. It’s known for its great laid-back nightlife, alternative music gigs, vintage fashion, vinyl records and an abundance of youthful spirit. And of course, good specialty coffee. It all goes together beautifully. Artisanal coffee shops are popping up all over Koenji, so this is by no means a definitive list. It is, however, a round-up of some of the best of best beans that can be sampled in this area and coffee made by dedicated baristas.

1. INCredible Coffee

Believe it or not, Incredible Coffee delivers on what the shop’s name promises. You can choose between several coffee beans and the choice often changes. The beans are sourced from Amp Coffee, a well-known roaster in Shin-Koenji. From espresso to cold brew, you can choose and customize any drink. The espresso is rich and deep in flavor, a rare find. The cold brew is pretty popular too.

Incredible Coffee perfectly encapsulates Koenji culture with its graffiti aesthetics and occasional art exhibitions. The shop’s interior is inspired from New York and even the bagels on the menu nod to that. Most importantly, it’s a place that welcomes patrons to chat, meet new people and relax.

2. Myth Cafe

At a peek from the outside, Myth Cafe resembles an intimate bar where the bartender probably mixes cocktails and chats with the patrons. Once you’re inside, you realize that’s exactly it, but with great coffee as the focus. The barista at Myth does make some cocktails too alongside coffee drinks. The menu is a whole book, enough to make any indecisive person panic. Or even better, keep coming back and trying different drinks.

The coffee classics are all there, served in creative ceramics that the barista has handpicked himself. (Honestly, the cups are worth a visit alone). You can pair your coffee with sweets like cheesecake or vegan coconut cookies served with cascara syrup, as a more unique option. The cascara is made from the skin of the coffee fruit, a part that is usually thrown out in coffee production. Recent trends, however, find ways to utilize it and contribute to sustainability. At Myth, you can find cascara syrup in cocktails too.

3. Rad Bros Cafe

Rad Bros offers excellent coffee and cakes, as the sign says. Opened last year, it is a shop that is bold and creative, with drinks like CBD coffee and charcoal lattes, as well as craft cola and craft beer. Seasonal drinks include choco mint cafe latte and espresso tonic. The espresso is absolutely gorgeous and bold. There is also artisanal drip coffee, if that’s your preferred coffee base.

This place is also great for doing a little bit of remote work, with free wi-fi and accommodating staff. In fact, it’s an openly welcome community. According to the Rad Bros website, the “Bros” stands for the close friendship the shop wants to form with local coffee patrons. Pets are welcome too, as part of a larger movement that aims for a pet-friendly society. Rad Bros has also joined an initiative that tackles food waste. It surely is a place with passion, both for coffee and a better world.

4. Möwe Coffee Roasters

The seagull on the coffee shop’s logo is also the meaning of “möwe” in German. The coffee shop’s website states that the seagull is a symbol of travel, just like coffee beans travel on ships from foreign lands to coffee cups all around the world. Möwe Coffee makes sure that the trip will not be in vain. It takes the utmost care in roasting, grinding and preparing its coffee. You can choose between a variety of coffee beans, roasted at Möwe and a variety of preparation methods as well. Light roasts are favored by Möwe.

It’s a shop that’s also passionate about every element of its store, such as serving sweets in handcrafted Japanese pottery. Similar to its Koenji coffee shop peers, Möwe also cares about the community and works towards sustainability. It often hosts art exhibitions and coffee-related workshops too. Keep an eye out for pop-up events and limited-edition drinks. Occasionally, champion baristas come over to Möwe Coffee Roasters to make coffee, such as the champion of the Japan Hand-Drip Championship 2019, Daiki Hatakeyama.

5. Porta Coffee Stand

Near Koenji Station, in the covered shopping shotengai area, Porta Coffee Stand is great for a quick coffee fix. And quick doesn’t mean compromising on quality. Porta is one of the best in Koenji. Customers can choose between deeper and lighter roast, as well as the preparation method. Foamy hot lattes with cute designs are certainly popular, but coffee lovers should also try the espresso, the macchiato or the cold brew. Single origin coffee beans and sweet treats are also for sale. Don’t miss out on seasonal drinks either.

The shop is small but it has a very welcoming atmosphere. You can squeeze in at the counter and make some friends, or grab a drink from the takeout window and explore Koenji.

Photos by Zoria Petkoska