In Tokyo, there’s a very special type of Starbucks that forgoes the usual green-and-white mermaid logo for more subdued, warm-brown hues. They also serve a variety of beers and wine sets paired with cheese or cake.
Called “Inspired by Starbucks”, only four of these special cafes exist in Japan. All located in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, the cafes aim to create a neighbourhood-style atmosphere with wood panel interiors, bright, open-plan spaces and comfortable, homey furniture. What’s most surprising about these cafes is the absence of any bright green Starbucks logos.
▼ The famous mermaid appears in a more subdued form.
The popularity of these more relaxed cafes is steadily growing, with Starbucks’ latest branch opening in Okusawa on 19 November. We stopped by on a chilly day to see exactly what the stylish coffee house had to offer over a typical Starbucks location.
Inside, customers were lined up to the door. The warm lighting and wooden features made this seem more like a privately run cafe rather than a place owned by a multi-million dollar coffee-house company.
As with all new openings in Japan, the cafe displays gifts of expensive flowers received from neighbouring companies as a welcome to the area.
There are mugs and coffee cards available for sale here but they’re very different to the usual items on display at Starbucks.
While waiting in line, we receive two menus: one for beverages and food and another for “Evenings”, which features an alcohol menu that’s available from midday every day.
The food options include tempting delights such as Macaroni and Cheese and an apple pie made with apples from Aomori Prefecture.
▼ The glass display case on the counter is packed full of sweet temptations. There’s cakes, croissants, cookies and apple pie.
We start our visit with a couple of coffees, choosing our preferred blends from the Espresso Selection.
▼ Coffees are made with a shiny new Synesso machine.
▼ And they also serve freshly brewed Clover coffee.
We decide to order a ‘Kenya’ cappuccino and an ‘Espresso Roast’ iced foam macchiato, which come served on elegant wooden trays.
While the coffees are delicious, it’s the comfortable seats and warm, cosy atmosphere that really sets this place apart from its brothers and sisters in the Starbucks world.
Inspired by Starbucks is also a great place to enjoy a tipple. The alcohol selection includes wines from California’s West Lane Winery, a Westend Eternity Sparkling Cuvée from Australia and beers from Redhook Brewery, Beck’s, and the locally brewed Far Yeast Tokyo Blonde and Snow Blanche from Hyogo Prefecture.
While the drinks can be enjoyed on their own, we decide to try the three beautifully presented wine sets from the “Evenings” menu.
▼ From left to right: Cheese on Wine; Lemon Cake on White; Bliss Chocolate Cake on Red.
While the cakes are specially paired with the wines, the cheese set comes with the option of white, red or sparkling wine.
▼ We opted for a white wine to go alongside the soft and smoked cheeses, which proved to be full of flavour.
▼ The Lemon Cake on White is one for the sweet-tooths, with the rich icing dominating the light-bodied white wine.
▼ The chocolate cake and Merlot combination was our favourite, with the flavours pairing together beautifully. By the time we got up to leave, we’d forgotten we were actually at Starbucks!
Open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day, this is a great place to stop by for a coffee or even a tipple or two. Or three. If you’re ever in Setagaya, be sure to step inside and check it out!
Inspired by Starbucks/インスパイアード バイ スターバックス
Address: Tokyo-to, Setagaya-ku, Okusawa 2-38-9
Open: 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Photos © RocketNews24