The Perfect Cup In Tokyo

While I was in Japan, I split up my time in Tokyo into two segments at the beginning and end of my trip with the thought that I would be able to more efficiently explore the city if I stayed in different areas for each segment.

My first hotel, Park Hotel Tokyo, was absolutely amazing, and I would definitely stay there again if I ever find my way back to Japan. My second hotel though…what a disaster. It’s a bit of a long story, but let’s just say the night of my return to Tokyo after visiting Kyoto and Osaka was incredibly stressful. I will be forever grateful to for helping me with the language barrier in the middle of the night and getting me to a better and safer hotel.

By the next morning, once all the dust had cleared, I was in desperate need of coffee, not only for the caffeine buzz but for the comfort that the warm, bitter liquid always grants me during times of stress. Looking down the list of coffee shops that I had made before I left the U.S., I realized that several were close by, and I decided to check out the one that was closest to the train station and that had been marked as a must: Koffee Mameya.

Located in the Omotesando area, which is know for its high-end stores, Koffee Mameya is actually not the easiest coffee shop to find. If it weren’t for Google Maps, which had faithfully and accurately led me to all of my destinations throughout my trip, I would have never found this place. I think it’s located along a residential street, without much foot traffic, much like Bongen in Ginza, and the entrance is easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. That being said, once you do find the entrance, it’s pretty iconic. Its black walls are a stark contrast to the surrounding white buildings, and it emulates the exclusive and mysterious vibe of the restaurants of Gion.

Upon entry, I found that the two shop workers were helping a couple other groups, one consisting of two older, asian ladies deciding on some bags of beans and the other a couple from the UK discussing which coffees to try.

There were no chairs in sight, so I immediately walked up to the spacious counter and, crossing my arms, leaned on it to wait for one of the shop workers to become available. I was immediately chastised for the action by one of the shop workers and told to wait behind the UK couple.

My introverted, people-pleasing side was very embarrassed by my mistake and the public rebuke. I didn’t want to be rude or inconsiderate of any Japanese customs or cultural preferences. At the same time, my coffee-deprived side was really not in the mood, so while standing in the dark corner of the shop, I angrily fumed, “What an asshole.”

To my relief the worker who hadn’t spoken to me finished ringing up the older ladies’ purchases and welcomed me to the counter, a big smile on his face, which immediately put me at ease. He asked a few questions about my coffee preferences before pointing out some of the coffees on the menu that he thought I would like. He seemed to have a bias towards the Giesha coffees with hints of jasmine, but my eyes kept roving over to the El Injerto Pacamar Natural from Ogawa Coffee (Yes, that is the same company I visited in Boston last year). I can’t remember all of the words he used to describe it, but I do recall hearing hints of wine and very unique. It sounded like something I just had to try.

While I waited for the other, more stern, worker to finish brewing the UK couple’s coffees and start on mine, I chatted with the man who helped me about my plans for the next couple of days. Considering how little English most of the Japanese with which I had interacted spoke, I was pleasantly surprised at how fluent and personal he was. He was particularly impressed with my ability to get tickets to the Ghibli Museum, and as a result, I will brag about that accomplishment for the rest of my life.

After a few more minutes, I grabbed my coffee, thanked the two men (I was no longer feeling antagonistic towards the one who had quietly and very seriously brewed my coffee), and walked outside to enjoy my drink next to the small field that was just across the street.

Wait, did I say small field?

Yup. Oddly enough, among all of the residential buildings and across the street from Koffee Mameya is a small lot full of tall, field grass. I’m not sure if there is a particular use for the tiny field, but it did make for a nice little spot to relax while I sipped on my cup of Joe. There is just something so soothing about the sound of wind blowing through tall grass, and with no one else in sight, I started to feel like I was back home, near the fields by my house.

All that was missing was the cows.

It was a good thing that the street was empty of people when I took my first sip of coffee as it would have been really awkward considering the moan that escaped my throat at that moment. I was expecting a good cup of coffee that morning. I wasn’t expecting the best cup that I had ever had in my life.

I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but that’s what it was. Perfectly brewed, it was neither too bitter nor too acidic. The balance was at just the perfect level to express the coffee’s full spectrum of flavors, and as the shop worker had explained, it was a unique combination that I had never experienced before.

If there is one thing I regret about my trip to Japan, it’s that I never returned to Koffee Mameya for a bag of those beans to bring home.

Not that my coffee brewing skills could ever do them justice.

Anyway, taking into consideration that a hundred yen is worth a little less than one American dollar, the coffee at Koffee Mameya is on the pricey scale, with some cups going for almost fifteen bucks. My super-saver ass would have normally balked at that kind of pricing, but after tasting a cup for myself, I have to say that it is totally worth the cost. I would gladly pay almost nine dollars (or more) for that cup of Guatemalan coffee again.

And if you ever find yourself in the Omotesando area of Tokyo, do not miss out on this place. There are a lot of cafes to choose from in that part of town, but Koffee Mameya is the top notch choice for coffee.

Until next time,

The one and the only Pookachino

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