One of the reasons I love living in Tokyo is it’s full of people who love to push the envelope to create new and unique things… especially when it comes to the whole ‘cute culture’. We all know in fashion, anything goes. You only have to head to Harajuku to see all the crazy trends happening. And in recent years, this concept has extended to coffee. Continue reading “Uncovering the Most Creative Cups of Coffee in Tokyo”
Sake is such an integral part of Japanese culture. There are so many different types of sake, different brands, different ways to drink it, different occasions to drink it on. Having gone out with my Japanese colleagues (surprise, surprise, teachers love to drink!) on many occasions, I feel like I’ve learnt a little about this complex alcoholic liquid. Continue reading “Sake: Japan’s Liquid of Choice”
Warm and cozy. This was the first impression I had of Fuglen Tokyo, a coffee joint considered to be one of the best in the city. Even when the weather’s on the chilly side, people sit outside on a long bench that wraps around this corner shop, chatting and enjoying their cups of coffee. Inside, there are several tables, sofas and counter seats – almost always full of coffee enthusiasts. The varnished timber and soft lighting interior has created the perfect relaxing ambience, making it easy to get in the zone if you’re reading a book or doing some work. But it’s what happens behind the counter that keeps the people coming.
Fuglen, or The Bird, is an import from Norway. The original shop was established in 1963 in Oslo and in more recent years the business has started to spread its wings. The Tokyo branch, tucked away behind Yoyogi Park, was opened in 2012, and continues the unique concept of coffee shop by day, cocktail bar by night.
The first sip of a coffee is always full of anticipation; is it going to be bitter or fruity or too heavy or too hot? The first sip of my Fuglen latte revealed one of the lightest, smoothest cups I’ve ever tasted. It was very good and the delicious taste lingered long after I’d finished the cup. That first sip was all it took to hook me and I know I’m going to be recommending it to all of my coffee loving friends from now on!
Can you feel the change in the air? Spring has returned!! The mercury has hit the 20s and the cherry blossoms have started to show their pretty faces!
It’s a great time to be in Japan. The whole country seems to be buzzing with excitement. In Tokyo, the sakura (cherry blossom tree) season officially began on March 23rd, and the flowers should be in full bloom in a couple of days time. I’ve already been to 3 sakura viewing spots in Tokyo, and will hit up lots more places over the next week! It’s a good thing I’m on spring holidays right now – no work, all play!
As you can imagine, the sakura are kind of a big deal in Japan. Of course, there are many people who actually take the time to appreciate their beauty and delicate nature, but I feel like the flowers are becoming increasingly over-commercialised (as much as is possible for a flower, anyway!). Businesses sure know how to capitalise on the popularity of something. From sakura-flavoured ice cream, to special sakura packaging, to whole station entrances being covered in images of sakura, for about 2 months of the year it is pink pink pink everywhere! It reminds me of Christmas time when everything turns red and green, the department stores become packed with Christmas trees and decorations, and Christmas jingles are played 24/7. The novelty factor can be a bit too much sometimes, but I think it’s fun to change things up with these limited edition products. It definitely keeps things interesting!
While the nation becomes sakura-ized, meteorologists have the very serious and extremely high-pressure job of predicting when the sakura will actually bloom. The whole country relies on the information they give! The sakura forecast maps start to appear around early to mid-March, and people immediately start planning their hanami (cherry blossom viewing) parties! This year, the predicted season start date (when the buds begin to open) was March 24th, with the best viewing period happening between April 1st-8th. It’s literally a show that lasts less than 3 weeks. Is there any other flower that has this short of a lifespan??
If you thought that was insanely precise, wait to you see what happens next. In the week before the forecasted season, things get even more serious. We start to see live maps that show what stage of blooming the flowers are at. At my favourite event website, Walkerplus, we can see the progress through 7 stages. It starts with つぼみ (buds), then comes 咲き始め (starting to bloom), ５分咲き (50% bloomed), ７分咲き (70% bloomed), 満開 (full bloom), 散り始め (starting to fall), and lastly 青葉 (green leaves).
Spring is a fun time to be in Japan. I will never get sick of it! If you want to visit Japan and see the cherry blossoms, it’s really a gamble as to when they’ll be fully bloomed, but being here before/after April 1st is usually a safe bet. There are early and late blooming varieties anyway, so even if you miss the peak period you’ll still be able to enjoy this spectacle!
“Latte art” is becoming super popular in Japan. The first time I saw it was back in 2009 on a holiday to Japan (when I was still living in Australia). I found an adorable bear smiling up at me from my coffee mug. It was the cutest thing ever, and has stuck in my memory all these years. These days, most decent cafes do it – sometimes you have to request it and pay extra for it, while sometimes it turns up at your table as a surprise! Regardless, it always make me smile. Baristas are too cool!
Another café hunted down. Another successful cup of coffee.
I can’t remember where I read about FabCafe in Shibuya, but it’s been on my to-do list for a while. I finally had some free time this past weekend to track down this little beauty.
It was a little bit of a hike up the hill from Shibuya Station, so I was bound to get distracted on the way! I got about half way when I noticed a deceivingly ‘hip’ looking café/restaurant, with its chill, beach style; wooden boarding; and a poster promoting all the different styles of coffee they do. I sat down in a cozy counter stool, took one sip of my cappuccino and knew I should have known better than judge a café on its looks. The coffee tasted far too bitter and burnt for my liking. It was a struggle just to finish it.
It’s amazing how a bad coffee can make you appreciate a good one so much more! After finishing up at the ‘bad’ café, I decided to keep going to the one that I had actually set out to find. And I’m so glad I did.
FabCafe is trendy. It’s cool without trying to be. Actually, it’s right next to / under a massive expressway, but that doesn’t seem stop coffee lovers from frequenting this place. Almost everyone in the café had their Apple MacBooks out – I guess that’s a good indication of the crowd. There’s even a “Fab Lab”, where there’s a laser cutter machine to make 3D artwork (like the animals in picture #3 below). In fact, the ‘fab’ in FabCafe comes from both fabrication and fabulous. The décor is raw and simplistic. The interior walls are bare cement, and the exterior ones are glass from top to bottom, with a lovely view of the bottom side of the expressway (more cement!). The warmth comes from the wood furnishings and two eye-catching feature lights at the back of the room.
But let’s not forget the most important thing, the coffee.
I took a sip of my latte, and almost let out an ‘ahhh’. It was just what I wanted. The bitter taste that had been left in my mouth from the previous coffee was replaced with deliciousness. The latte was smoooooth and creamy and light-bodied. The foam was just right. The temperature was exactly as it should be. All in all, it was just so easy to drink. There’s not much more I can say other than ‘Go try for yourself’! I also have to mention how delicious the salmon and egg bagel was. A perfect combo.
I’m definitely looking forward to going back soon to try other drinks on the menu and introduce this fab place to my fellow coffee-loving friends. I might even have a go at that laser cutter!
For more info, please visit their website >> http://tokyo.fabcafe.com/en/