Sourdough bread has made a spectacular comeback in recent years, luring carb-lovers and health gurus alike with its tangy, organic flavor and teeth-shatteringly thick crust. Its origins date back to ancient Egypt, when humans first started using wild yeast as a leavener. With the rise of hip bakeries like San Francisco’s Tartine Bakery, the ancient loaves have once again become sought-after, and sourdough baking has emerged as a popular hobby among many during quarantine.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best-known sourdough in Tokyo, so that the next time you get hit with an intense bread craving, you know where to go — and where not to.
Hidden in a nook around a 10-minute walk from Nippori Station, Vaner specializes in Norwegian baked goods. The quaint, brightly-lit space is mostly filled by a shelf and counter displaying sourdough loaves, cardamom rolls and croissants. Vaner’s sourdough loaf has a dark crust that’s packed with the pure aroma of wheat, and is so crunchy that considerable force is required to tear through it. The four types of Norway-sourced flours — Øland, Spelt, Emmer, Svedje — give an earthy, pleasant tang. The crumb is airy yet firm, making the bread optimum for a summer bruschetta or avocado toast.
9am – 6pm (Wed – Fri)
8am – 5pm (Sat – Sun)
2-15-6 Uenosakuragi, Taito-ku
A 10-minute walk from Ichigaya Station, No.4 is a bustling bakery cafe offering not only a wide variety of sweet and savory breads but also hot dishes like French toast and pizza. Its sourdough, highly praised on a number of websites, is surprisingly disappointing. The dark amber crust is soft after being in a plastic bag on the display shelf for a few hours. The crumb is much tighter than Vaner’s, and therefore the texture is denser, at times almost doughy. The flavor lacks depth, perhaps due to a low ratio of brown flour, and there’s only a hint of sourness.
8am – 10pm
5-9 Yonbancho, Chiyoda-ku
Quite a trek from Waseda Station, Kandagawa Bakery only has a meter-long glass display embedded onto the side of a building, but that doesn’t stop locals from queuing up on the street for the seasonal sourdough loaves and other rustic breads. The crust of the sourdough is dark and soft like No.4’s, but what saves Kandagawa Bakery’s loaf is its intensely earthy taste. One bite of the light, springy crumb hits you with the toasted coffee-like scent of the black seeds that are kneaded into the dough. There’s barely any hint of sourness, but those who love rich, whole grain flavors are sure to be fans of this loaf.
11am – 6pm (Wed – Sun)
1-11-14 Takada, Toshima-ku
Liberte Patisserie Boulangerie
Liberte Patisserie Boulangerie, located close to Kichijoji Station, has a crisp white interior that more closely resembles a high-end Belgian chocolatier than a neighborhood bakery. Its sourdough is not your typical dark-crust, tangy, tartine bakery-sort of loaf. Its light-colored crust and plain flavor instead make it more like a Japanese shiopan, a simple salty dinner roll. The loaf has no detectable sourness. Judging by the flavor, which is clean at best and bland at worst, it seems that only white flour is used in the dough. The texture is fluffy, which is great in an English muffin or sandwich bread, but not what you would hope for in a sourdough.
10am – 7:30pm (Mon – Fri)
9am – 7:30pm (Sat – Sun, Hol)
2-14-3 Kichijoji Honcho, Musashino-shi