A review of an independent coffee roaster, Light Up Coffee at Kichijoji, Tokyo. Notes are by an amateur coffee enthusiast and shoestring digital nomad. Descriptions are equal parts coffee and remote-work suitability. Most photos are shot with a second-hand Fujifilm X100.
Since the summer of 2014, whispers of Light Up Coffee have rippled slowly from Kichijoji through Tokyo’s coffee scene. Perhaps first by the impressed critics, then their trailing skeptics.
Either way, it took a while for me to return to Kichijoji to try this hole in the wall out after doing an initial neighbourhood map on a cold, rainy day. If it’s your first time at Kichijoji, Light Up Coffee sits near the end of a local restaurant and shopping street which has several other local roasters. The 一圓 本店 manju (meat buns) in a street steamer along the way are a must try.
The small space with the plank-counters don’t make suitable workspaces and there is no Wi-Fi, so that’s the end of remote working for this post.
Back to the coffee. Many people may have heard of Takayuki Miyazaki, who won first place at the 2016 Japan AeroPress Championship and works at FabCafe and Light Up. Of course, the cafe offers aeropress coffee in addition to the pour over and espresso drinks.
They usually serve two blends and the rest are single-origin beans.
My local friend opted for a milk-based espresso, which she felt could have been warmer (Japan has a habit of frothing the milk at a lower temperature).
Personally, I’ve grown to prefer pour-over in Japan as my first choice for espressos are still Pacific Northwest style, so I opted for the tasting menu. Each drink came as about half an American cup, which works out to be quite a bit for anyone sensitive to cafine.
The tasting notes are at the back of each card, but I tried blind tasting before checking the profiles. The Ethiopia Konga Natural had a sweet and smooth, almost creamy ending (strawberry, yogurt). Ethiopia Guji was my favourite with more distinct staccato citric notes (grapefruit). The Costa Rica Candelilla was a suitable contrast with its mellower profile (chocolate and apple).
Their Story / What I like About Them:
It turns out, Yuma Kawano and Tamito Aihara started Light Up Coffee only 2-3 years after finishing university, where they studied unrelated degrees. Their jobs in cafes slowly got them interested in the trade and obsessed enough to do a coffee tasting trip in Europe together. The small, rundown unit that Light Up Coffee now occupies was all they could afford in the trendy neighbourhood to begin their in-house roasting operation. According to an interview, they did all renovations and built the furniture themselves in order to make the place work.
The visitors don’t mind the small space and many do take-away. In fact, the cafe even hosts regular coffee workshops and events.
- Coffee: Pour-over, Aeropress, Espresso
- Food: Pastries
- Cafe Space: Narrow bar ledges, approx 6-10 seats (depending on how cozy you want to be)
- Friends: Catching up and maybe reading
- Workspace: Not suitable for remote work
- Remote Work: Note suitable for remote work
4-13-15 Kichijoji Honmachi, Musashino, Tokyo 〒180-0004
|Website:||Website / Facebook|
|Daily: 10:00-20:00 月〜日|
If you liked this post, check out my list of cafes west of Shinjuku.