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Idling in a café with a perfectly roasted espresso and a canelé may sound like the quintessential Parisian pastime, but if it does, then you don't know Paris - or Tokyo.
A recent article from Food & Wine Magazine proclaimed Tokyo to be the new City of Lights for a number of reasons, including its Michelin-starred restaurants, cheap eats, delicious pastries and, to top it all off, its superior coffee. The magazine stressed that while Paris is beloved for its cafe culture, the coffee itself has never fallen in that purview. Cities like New York City and Seattle have cultivated a high standard for expert roasting, and now Tokyo purportedly joins the ranks, effectively adding coffee to its oeuvre as as Asia's culinary capital.
Yet, coffee isn't the only burgeoning drink scene in Tokyo. The city is also known for its vibrant nighttime watering holes and the hipsters, clubbers and salarymen to whom they cater. Nowadays the craft beer revolution is drawing in audiences in the Asian Pacific, according to CNN Travel. That includes Tokyo.
Considering these trends, it looks like visitors to the Japanese capital will have no problem unwinding with a drink, day or night.
Tokyo wasn't always known for its exceptional morning brew. As Time Out pointed it out, the really good coffee shops were once few and far between, and the ones catering to an espresso crowd even scarcer. In the past decade, however, Tokyo has turned itself into a cafe gem, serving not only drip coffee but also plenty of foam-art-grade espresso. Best of all, mega-chain stores are meeting their match in the healthy rise of independent coffee shops, roasters and retailers all over town, according to Roast Magazine's Daily Coffee News. The best cafes come in all shapes and sizes to meet people's caffeine needs.
Some coffee shops have risen to the top like the foam of a well-poured espresso. Ometasando Koffee received praise from Food & Wine Magazine, Time Out and Daily Coffee News for its exceptional coffee. It also earns points for its interesting setup. Originally a pop-up shop, Ometasando is basically a counter and a coffee machine set up temporarily in the first floor of a two-story residential home. A lease extension has since lengthened the time of its original 12-month stay, according to Time Out.
There are plenty of other notable and much-praised coffee shops. Fuglen is an Oslo, Norway, import with a European vibe. Apart from the coffee, it also serves cocktails and beer at night. Sarutahiko Coffee is the highly convenient and informal coffee shop located right next to busy Ebisu Station. Streamer Coffee is one of the most well-known spots for coffee appreciation, according to Daily Coffee News. That's due in large part to its dedication to latte art, held to a high standard by owner and 2008 Seattle Latte Art Champion Hiroshi Sawada. While impressive, it's only one of many cafés serving up beautiful espresso drinks.
Coffee can serve as part of the morning's recovery process or the pick-me-up before a night out. In either case, alcohol has its role to play, as well. Japan loves its whisky, but it is also a big fan of beer. Microbrews are currently carving out their niche.
BrewDog Roppongi was named one of Asia's best beer bars by CNN Travel. Like whisky, it is a Scottish import known for bold and showy beers. To date, they have made a virility-themed IPA to commemorate the British royal wedding, as well as a Belgian-style ale packaged in taxidermied animals. The Tokyo branch has 20 taps and an industrial vibe.
Goodbeer Faucets is another bar to earn the best beer venue superlative. It was founded by way of a Japanese brewery collaboration between Baird Beer, Brimmer Brewing and Atsugi Beer. There are 40 beers on top from Japan, the U.S., Belgium and Germany. Additionally, there are seven specialty beers brewed in-house.
Other microbrew bars acknowledged by CNN Travel include Craftheads, Craft Beer Market and Baird Taproom. However, not to be forgotten are some of the older, more traditional bars throughout Tokyo. Fujiya Honten is of that old guard, established more than 130 years ago, according to Time Out. There the beers are cheap and the service adheres to an old practice, in which patrons lay out their money for the night on the counter, and the bartender deducts accordingly with each drink purchased. If the practice is too old-fashioned, the hipper craft bars await.
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Embark on this exploration of Japan's highlights, with the support of local guides, comfortable train transportation, and enough down time to truly get lost in the land of the rising sun.
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