We walked through the light rain on a wintry morning in a placid Sangenjaya neighbourhood.
Cafe Obscura is a highlight of our Tokyo Coffee Trail as it is the only cafe offering siphon coffee. In fact Cafe Obscura offers only siphon coffee. Siphon or syphon coffee is a brewing method using a vacuum pot. It involves steeping coffee with boiling water ascended from a flask-like carafe to the extraction and filtering of coffee into a clear receptacle. In Japanese siphon coffee methods, coffee is stirred twice using a bamboo spatula, allowing water to permeate the ground coffee evenly, facilitating complete degassing.
Siphons make wonderful coffee because they release a rich gamut of flavors in an exceptionally clean brew. The barista brought out a chalkboard menu and explained the different bean flavours available. With 7 single origins and 2 blends, we were spoiled for choice. We ordered a Nicaragua single origin and the Mandheling. She allowed us to watch and take pictures while she churned out our orders.
The counter is designed to showcase the siphon process. The barista turned into a tinkering alchemist in a chemistry experiment; all she lacked was a laboratory coat. There is something magical about watching an indulgent treat appearing before your eyes gradually. A palpable sense of anticipation swelled as we observed the incipient concoction develop in the flask. The coffee from Nicaragua is intensely fruity with a bright acidity and lingering finish. The Mandheling is a complex coffee that exhibits smoky earthy notes, gentle acidity, finishing with dark chocolate relish.
If a house without books is like the body without soul, Cafe Obscura is a ‘soulful’ place. Books by Frank Gehry, Ryan McGinley and Anish Kapoor lined the shelves. Books and coffee make perfect companions for the café fanatic; nothing is more pleasurable than your favourite coffee, a good book and the afternoon to enjoy both. They have another outpost, the Cafe Obscura Laboratory – a coffee stand and roastery, 15 minutes walk away, where espresso-based drinks are available. We bought beans from Tanzania; with a high city or French roast, it is easily the darkest roast in our Tokyo Coffee Trail.
The sky was still drizzling when we left. It was alright though. There are storms in life and we cannot always bask in sunshine; let us walk in the rain together.
Website: Cafe Obscura
Address: 1-19-16 Sangenjaya, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo