You Will Fly to Tokyo for a Cup of Coffee

It takes only about 30 minutes to make. Plus a 16-hour flight, depending on where you live.

By James Freeman

(Charlie Murray)

Tokyo got the future I was expecting to have when I was 12. The future was supposed to be more amazing than the present. (I have this car I feel the same way about. It was built in 1973, but it still looks like the future. Nowadays, new cars look like athletic shoes.) I’m opening two Blue Bottle cafes there in 2015, and the worst thing about it is that I’m going to wake up some days and think, I really wanna go to this café, but it’s 6,000 miles away. That’s going to take some planning.

Tokyo’s coffee community, as I see it today, is largely segmented into the hyper-convenient and the agonizingly detailed. There is one place, Chatei Hatou, that I talk about a lot. There are these little chiffon cakes: maple, earl grey, macha, banana chocolate. The coffee there is perfectly executed. There is one gentleman who’s been the proprietor there forever. He warms the saucer—not just the cup, but the saucer. It is an uncompromised experience in terms of preparation and service. No shortcuts. No compromise to the professional who’s executing it. It’s a little bit like going to grandma’s house. Coffee snobs here say it’s everything that’s wrong. All these “rules” are broken in this deeply personal way and all in service of this perfect taste and sensation in his mind.

That idea of the intimate and the perfect co-existing permeates so much of my experience in Tokyo. It’s a different dimension — a better dimension.

James Freeman is the founder of Blue Bottle.