With contemporary work spaces and latte art now an expectation among coffee patrons, it’s difficult for boutique cafés to break away from modern convention to provide a unique experience. But as speciality coffee shops increasingly sprout throughout Tokyo, Eiichi Kunitomo continues to satisfy the most discerning coffee addicts, while also putting on a performance that alters the customer’s view and involvement.
Best known for opening Omotesando Koffee in 2011, Kunitomo was inspired to create an extraordinary coffee stand based on the visual aesthetics and ambience one could observe at a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The cube-shaped structure is like a chashitsu (“tea room”), inviting guests to step up and speak directly with their host, the barista. Like any accommodating host, the barista asks each customer whether he or she desires milk, sugar, or a cake as an accompaniment. The customer is then invited to observe the creation process, their host diligently performing each order within the open, wooden structure.
One of the baristas, Taka, explained that each “artesian” takes their hosting role very seriously, striving to honor the traditions of the tea ceremony by perfecting each move before their guest. He added that while this creates additional pressure, it can excite people and make them happy—like listening to music. Taka believes that one of the best aspects of his job is getting the opportunity to connect with his customers through a shared experience.
When Omotesando Koffee suddenly announced its permanent closure in December 2015, countless hearts belonging to both regulars and tourists shattered. However, Tokyoites and travellers scouring blogs in search of great coffee may be surprised to learn that Toranomon Koffee, Omotesando Koffee’s astute successor, has been operating out of a Mori Tower since 2014.
Neighboring the bustling Roppongi neighborhood, Toranomon Koffee mainly caters to the needs of local businesspeople taking a short break from their busy work schedules. Supplying customers with their daily dose of caffeine and short-lived self-indulgence, it’s no wonder the baristas are seen as therapists of sorts.
In addition to a selection of beverages, customers can purchase four types of baked sweets. Made on the premises daily, each flavorsome morsel is aptly cube-shaped, fitting in with the decor. The so-called “most popular” is the baked custard, which originated during the establishment of the Omotsando Koffee stand. Only the highly observant are likely to notice that each cube comes served in a high-quality paper coffee filter.
On any given day, you’ll see the baristas at Toranomon Koffee performing their duties in white lab coats. However, don’t take their clinical ensembles as representative of their personalities, for they’re a vibrant bunch of characters who are very passionate about what they do. Toranomon Koffee brings people closer together, establishing the simple pleasure of bonding over a shared appreciation for what can be achieved through a cup of coffee.
2F Toranomon Hills Mori Tower, 1-23-3 Toranomon, Minato-ku. Open daily, 7am-7pm. Nearest Stn: Toranomon. http://ooo-koffee.com/toranomon.html