Once you’ve been in Tokyo for a little while, you start to notice people here really love coffee. From traditional kissaten (cafes that also often have smoking sections) to more mainstream cafes and coffee shops, Tokyo has a lot to offer in terms of coffee culture. You can even find small boutique coffee shops aplenty with just a minimal search. While any of these previous options are available all the time, sometimes there are special events as well. I was lucky enough to attend this year’s spring Tokyo Coffee Festival, which was held at the Saturday’s famer’s market in front of UNU (United Nations University) in Shibuya. A short walk from the Omote-Sando Metro station (or a slightly longer walk from Harajuku or Shibuya station), the location is very convenient and easy to spot. Before entering the coffee festival, the actual farmer’s market was being held, so lots of local goods and fresh produce was out on display (and looking quite nice). Several nice food trucks were also parked right in front of the university entrance, so I got a quick snack before my big caffeine binge.
How the festival works is pretty simple: you buy a “ticket” for 1,000 yen and receive five stickers, which you can use at different coffee stands to sample their coffee, and five small cups. You can also enter the festival without the stickers, but you won’t be able to taste test; you’ll have to buy a full-sized beverage. The stickers you redeem at different stands will go up to display, and each coffee stand vies for the most stickers, and therefore the most popularity. The whole air of the place was quite festive and fun, with all of the stand owners eagerly calling out to new customers.
While there were a lot of people at the festival, the lines actually went quite fast, so no need to worry about waiting (I waited 10 minutes maximum for one of the more popular stands). Most stands offered cold or iced coffee, but be warned it was almost always black! I’m weak for cream and sugar, so the raw coffee taste was a little overpowering, but it was still quite an enjoyable experience. Thankfully for me, one of the stands was a Thai iced coffee shop, so I got my sugary fix with all of the added sweetened condensed milk.
One of the greatest aspects of the festival was being able to meet and chat up the owners/employees of the stand and learn a bit about their coffee. Most of the shops proudly displayed all the sources for their beans, and each stand had a very particular way about preparing their special brew. It was very fun to watch and see how made their coffee just-so (and good to know if you are planning on buying any of their beans, which are also for sale at every stand). A few of the shops even had additional merchandise such as coffee mugs, shirts, and bags also for sale. Even some non-coffee-related shops were there, including a little bakery that made gorgeous and delicious cupcakes. Overall, the festival was a great way to spend a nice, spring Saturday afternoon. Just prepare for the big caffeine buzz after downing five different types of coffee in a row!