Akihabara is a bustling town in Tokyo. Here you’ll find a shopping district for electronic goods, anime, video games, hobbies, and many other interests. While shopping for your special interests, a tasty lunch may be on your mind, as there are many convenient and delicious places to eat around the area. If you’re looking for coffee on the other hand, it seems that convenience remains the top priority; “delicious” does not need to be part of the equation.
You’ll find the standard big-chain coffee places in Akihabara: Starbucks, Dotour, Tully’s, Blue Bottle, etc. Typically, convenience wins out over taste, in the big-chain coffee stores. You’ll also find some of the Japan power house coffee places here too, like Yanaka coffee. I’ve found that the more traditional places like Yanaka universally have an emphasis on dark, dark, dark roasted coffee. If you can’t read into my sarcasm here, they tend to over-roast their beans for a very dark and bitter cup, that often tastes of charcoal and ash.
However, if you take a 5 minute walk away from the bustle of Akihabara station, you’ll be rewarded with a small and modern cafe in Kielo Coffee. The cafe is bright with calm music playing some easy listening music. There are a few counter seats with power outlets (コンセント）available. There are 3 small tables that will accommodate two people each. The available power and Wifi indicate that it’s a safe spot to plugin and work for a little bit while you enjoy something from their menu of light and medium roasted coffees or a baked treat. Their facilities are clean and easy to access.
They have a small selection of coffees available with a variety of flavors ranging from classic washed South American choices to naturally processed varietals from Ethiopia. They prepare coffee in either pour-over methods using a Hario V60, or you can choose to have espresso based drinks from their La Marzocco Linea.
Although I didn’t purchase any on this trip, you can buy beans here as well. The beans have stylish and colorful bags for each flavor, encouraging you to buy several to have a nice gallery of art to enjoy. They also had some baked treats like cheesecake and carrot cake on the menu, but I didn’t try it, perhaps on another trip.
My first coffee was a caffe latte. Although the beans for the latte were unspecified, I could clearly see the light/medium roast in the bean hopper. I am always nervous about drinking “fruity” coffee with milk based coffees as if the balance isn’t right, it can unappealing to me. My worries were unfounded, as the espresso and milk balanced fairly nicely giving the latte a rich and smooth feel, while having a little acidity to brighten the cup without being too strong. In actuality, I thought the drink could have used a little less milk, to show off the coffee a little more, but as it was a latte, it was more milk than coffee. The latte art also proved that the texture was up to par with a pretty tulip showcasing the baristas work.
I had a pour over next, and I selected an Ethiopia Sidamo Niguesse Gemeda bean. The tasting notes indicated grape, sherry, and raisins. Considering this was a light roast and a naturally processed heirloom coffee, that would be a safe guess as to what you may experience if the roast and brew are done well, and done extremely well it was. There were clearly notes of raisins and sherry from what I could taste. The natural fruitiness was very well tempered by a nice roast flavor – something not typical in a light roast. The body was thin, and had a clean finish. Somewhat unique for a natural process in my experience – however, that beautiful roasted flavor was also not typical for a natural process, and perhaps this is where the compromise was made.
If you’re looking for some decent coffee, and you’re in the area of Akihabara, Kielo is definitely going to be better than any of your big chain stores. I would recommend you give them a try. If you’d like more information, you can check out their web site – Kielo Coffee.