If you had stumbled upon OMOTESANDO KOFFEE by chance, thank your lucky stars for that moment of serendipity. The shop sits quaintly in a 60 year-old abode shrouded by unkempt foliage. With the inconspicuous signpost leading to a forlorn courtyard, it is hard to imagine this as a place to get your caffeine fix. Do not be fooled by its ramshackle appearance, though. The coffee kiosk was slated to be there for only a year after which the building would be demolished. The landlords reversed their decision for a good reason: OMOTESANDO KOFFEE has amassed much acclaim from specialty coffee fans in Tokyo.
The hardwood floor creaked as we gingerly slid the Fusuma door aside. A barista counter nestles within a cuboid steel frame structure standing in the middle of the room. The interior is a harmonious juxtapose of contemporary design and traditional structure with square as a recurring theme. The signpost outside forms a square frame; the letter ‘O’ in KOFFEE is replaced by a square. The ‘Kashi’ snack are cube-like; merchandise display is labeled with clear acrylic cubes. Even the barista counter within the cuboid steel structure is divided into squares. There must be some sort of esoteric purpose for the squares and cubes, I thought, nudging my girlfriend to probe further. When asked, owner barista Eiichi Kunitomo broke into a toothy grin and explained that square represents a kiosk. Coffee is also spelled with a ‘K’ for the same reason. In the logo, ‘K’ is designed with an underdot for further emphasis. It is also the first letter of his surname ‘Kunitomo’.
I asked Kunitomo why were many places, including Singapore, stated on the website. A look of shyness flitted across his face: he said that OMOTESANDO KOFFEE is a pop-up kiosk and he dreams of opening in these places. The beauty of OMOTESANDO KOFFEE lies in the execution of its pop-up kiosk concept. The steel frame structure can easily be taken apart and reassembled as the shop pops up. The bare frame can be customized to blend in with any location they move to. Pop-up stores are nothing new but none are as intrinsically executed as OMOTESANDO KOFFEE. The steel frame and brand identity are conceptualized by Eding:Post bringing to life Kunitomo’s concept of transience: one that celebrates the impermanence of life, reminding us to focus on living in the now, instead of in the future.
Eiichi Kunitomo is no stranger to transience, having honed his skills as a barista in Osaka and Italy before settling in Tokyo as a barista/coffee consultant. Armed with an intimate knowledge of coffee, he has helped in the set up of many successful cafes like Bread, Espresso &. and Monocle Café. Impressed by OMOTESANDO KOFFEE, Monocle’s editor Tyler Brûlé entrusted Kunitomo to oversee the coffee and sweets menu for its first ever café in Tokyo. One sip of the OMOTESANDO KOFFEE black coffee and I understood why. It is one of the best blends we came across in our Tokyo Coffee Trail: a crisp cup of mellow sweetness topped with floral aromatics and a smooth dark chocolate finish. The flavour changes with each sip as the coffee cools to reveal exotic earthy undertones. Based on Kunitomo’s own recipe, the blend of beans from Brazil, Ethiopia, El Salvador, and Indonesia is roasted in Kyoto by the famous Ogawa.
The baked custard snack (kashi) is also a hot favourite among customers. Served in a brown Kalita paper filter, the carefully crafted pastry resembles a cube shaped French canelé. Beneath the thick, caramelized crust lies moist and fragrant custard that makes a tantalizing combination with the ice Mocha. A delightful tango between the baked custard and bittersweet mocha sauce accentuates each other’s flavours, leaving you craving for more. No wonder many customers come by especially for the snack.
Kunitomo gently reminded us to watch out for the low beam before we stepped out. The gravel crunched as I turned and cast a wistful glance. There is something irresistible with the rustic charm and I hope OMOTESANDO KOFFEE would still be here when I come back to Tokyo. I turned back to my girlfriend and caught a glimpse of her dark locks falling across her cheeks, gently caressed by the whispering wind. I wish moments like this would last forever. They say nothing lasts forever but forever does exist. Forever is made up of many Nows: that is why we should live in the moment of now. My grasp on her hand tightened as we walked, determined to celebrate the impermanence of life by cherishing Now. And Forever.
Address: 4-15-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo