Now for a topic dear to my heart: Coffee. The Japanese call it “Kohi”. Kamakura seems to have its thumb on the pulse of the coffee world right now. New shops are opening all over town. At least five new ones opened here in 2018, for example. Having lived in Ethiopia (home of the first coffee plant), Seattle (home of Starbucks), and Boulder, Colorado (a college town whose population of students and athletes is fueled by caffeine), I’m feeling right at home here in Kamakura.
Coffee culture is experiencing a renaissance around the world. As with tasting a fine wine, the palette of adjectives used to describe coffee flavors is broad. I have tasted coffee that ranged from tobacco to nuts, from vanilla to chocolate, from citrus to blueberry. Coffee bean varietals, roasting techniques, and a large assortment of brewing methods provide the consumer with an endless choice. It’s a fabulous time to be a coffee drinker.
When most people think of Japan, they think of green tea. However, coffee has been a popular beverage here for about 300 years. Coffee was introduced to Japan by the Dutch in the 1700s. In fact, Japan used to export green tea to the rest of the world and bring their tea containers home filled with coffee beans. Today, Japan is the third largest importer of coffee behind Germany and the United States.
A common trait of the Japanese is to study and perfect something almost to an obsessive degree. A Japanese chemist invented instant coffee. They were the first to vacuum seal a bag of coffee for freshness. Japan was the first country to put brewed coffee in a can. The Japanese were serving single origin pour-overs well before it became fashionable in western countries. They were even the first to introduce ice cubes to coffee for a refreshing drink during the hot summer months.
Many places in Kamakura that serve meals also offer coffee and have espresso machines. However, below is a partial list of shops that we have visited so far where making coffee and espresso drinks is their main focus. Let me clarify here that the same coffee bean can be used to make a cup of coffee or an espresso drink. It’s all a matter of how the bean is ground as well as the method by which the bean is brewed - pour-overs for coffee and espresso machines for lattes. Personally, we don’t drink coffee; we only drink lattes. We judge a coffee shop by its atmosphere, the taste of their espresso, the texture of their steamed milk, and the quality of their latte art. Kamakura’s shops rank among the best we have seen anywhere. Several are listed below alphabetically and not in order of preference. For a complete list of coffee shops in Kamakura, please click on our map and look for the little red coffee cup icons.
CASA was originally located around the corner from its present location and up a little neko michi pathway. We first went there a couple years ago on a visit to Kamakura and loved their lattes. They are now located on Yuigahama street near Hase. Seating is limited, but the espresso is very good and their lattes are always art photo worthy. They also serve alcohol and a place to stay overnight.
Possibly the smallest coffee shop in Kamakura (so far!), Coffee Talks recently opened in the Onarimachi neighborhood around the corner from the Kinokuniya grocery store. Look for the open window near the street corner. You are basically standing in the street while you wait for your drinks. I think there is seating for two inside. The barista is very friendly and speaks English. His lattes are excellent. They change coffee roasts regularly, so the taste will change depending on the day. When we were there, our lattes had a strawberry flavor and needed no sugar.
Technically a chocolate shop but I’m going to call this a coffee shop because coffee and chocolate should always belong together. Here you can get your coffee and chocolate from the barista and head upstairs to watch the trains go by. Dandelion is located on the west side of the train station next to the pedestrian tunnel. They make excellent espresso drinks and wonderful desserts.
Cafe Luonto easily wins the prize for cutest coffee shop in Kamakura. It is located right on the Enoden tracks near Hase station. You will have to navigate the neko michi path along the tracks to find it. Look for the blue door. On a nice day, you can sit on their terrace and watch the Enoden go by while enjoying great coffee and yummy desserts.
Normally I would turn up my nose at a place that serves a tuna fish sandwich with a latte, but since the Mill Coffee & Stand is one block from the ocean, I will overlook it. You will find this cute little coffee shop nestled next to a little vegetable market on the main street in Zaimokuza. They serve espresso drinks, sandwiches, and baked goods.
I like the name of this shop, since “espresso” means “fast” in Italian. This shop will slow you down. It is warm, friendly, and comfortable. They serve nice lattes and desserts. There is also a leather store upstairs. You can find them on Yuigahama Street, between Wakamiya Oji and the Enoden tracks.
We love living near Tane, because we often smell them roasting coffee. Despite being one of the busier coffee shops around, we have heard rumors that it may be leaving next year. We hope not. This is a nice little shop that serves a good latte as well as alcoholic drinks. There is always an open window onto the pedestrian street of Onari Dori for walk-ups, but it also offers seating inside.
Standing room only, but worth it. Vancouver Coffee serves possibly Japan’s best beans from a roastery called %Arabica. This roastery began in Kyoto in 2014 and is spreading like wildfire throughout Asia for good reason. Vancouver serves the bean happily. It’s a simple, modern shop of concrete, wood, and glass. Their white Slayer espresso machine is the crown jewel and their baristas make a tasty latte with it. Look for their sign on the sidewalk along Yuigahama Street on your way towards Hase.
All the way from Santa Cruz, California, this coffee roaster had the *verve* to come to Japan. Just kidding. They make a fine espresso, beautiful latte art, have a super friendly staff, and spacious seating - including outdoors. Verve can be found along the lantern promenade to Hachimangu Shrine and is one of the only coffee shops in town who opens early and closes late.