Published on June 13th, 2013 | by Charu Suri3
The Best Place to Find Japanese Style Coffee in New York City
While the Japanese are certainly famous for their green teas and tea ceremonies, they can be passionate about their coffee too. Little did I know that an underground culture of Japanese coffee drinkers exists in New York City.
I’ll admit, the search for a cup of good Japanese-style coffee was tougher than I had predicted. I’d been all over Manhattan’s Lower East Side, The West Village and online looking for a Japanese Restaurant that made coffee. Every place I called or visited politely informed me “Japanese don’t make coffee, we make tea!” Basically, I was laughed at. One kind couple outside of a Japanese nightclub told me about a lovely little Japanese coffee shop they’d visited in Soho called Hiroko’s Place.
Getting to Hiroko’s is pretty easy. Located on Thompson Street just off 6th Avenue in SoHo near Canal Street, public transportation and parking, the café is located a few blocks away a pretty busy area of the city. The best time to go for a quiet experience is after 4pm any day. I arrived around 4:30pm.
I was greeted by one of the friendly managers, Ms.Hiroko herself. Hiroko’s is a family-owned establishment that’s been in business for over 10 years. The café was started by a mom and dad who had immigrated to New York from Japan. Current managers are Mr & Mrs. Hiroko’s son and daughter, who run the place with pride.
Despite what we Americans may think there is no such thing as ‘Japanese Coffee,’ there most definitely is a style of brewing. The Japanese purvey beans from all over the world, and brew coffee in various forms. Although there is no special coffee making form exclusive to Japan, there is a very old and rarely-used method of brewing coffee that was very popular in the 1950′s and 60′s in Japan when the elder Mr. & Mrs. Hiroko were dating, called the siphoning method. This is the method used at Hiroko’s.
The siphoning method was used in Japanese coffee houses in the old days as she described it, but has been phased out over time. It is indeed rare to find a Japanese establishment using the method today. The siphoning method is used to brew aromatic, rich, dark coffee that produces less acid in the digestive system. Like many things Japanese, the art of serving and presenting the coffee is important.
Ms. Hiroko travels as far as Pennsylvania to procure antique tea sets because she loves the idea of bringing the old school experiences of her mom and dad in Japan to her customers today in New York City. She’s recreated a sense of comfort of the antique coffee houses by adding appropriate decor, bookcases and antique tea sets all over. Each chair is unique, each table is vintage. There’s no question that such carefully-produced décor gives the place a period piece look and feel, adds to the experience of sipping siphoned coffee.
The beans at Hiroko’s come from all over the world: currently they serve coffee made with beans from Brazil, Columbia, Hawaii, and Jamaica. You can purchase a bag of their Hawiian Kona beans for only $30 at the counter and brew a fresh cup at home (or let Ms. Hiroko brew one for you!).
You can have a cup of siphoned coffee either iced or hot: the choice is yours, for an extra fifty cents. According to their coffee menu you can choose from the house’s special blend (which includes a variety of beans) or well-known favorites such as Mocha, Dark Roast, Columbia, Latte and Espresso among other choices.
The experience of great, friendly service, a homely environment, lovely presentation all added to the richly aromatic cup of coffee I had the pleasure to enjoy. I chose the house blend because I didn’t want to limit my experience to one specific bean. My cup was ready within minutes: very aromatic, dark, a tad strong but easily sweetened. Each serving is small, served in a small teacup on a saucer, just enough to satisfy the palate as is tradition in Japan although you can order a mug at extra cost.
My trip to Hiroko’s is one I’d make again for their siphoned coffee when I need to treat myself. Next time, I’m indulging in a latte!
75 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012
Phone: 212) 625-1303
Hours: 12:00 pm–10:00 pm
-Reported by Jay Dee