Omotesando Koffee is open from Friday 14 December on Rathbone Square in Fitzrovia. The Japanese coffee shop with a cult following neighbours Joe and the Juice at the new development, and marks the second high-profile, highly differentiated coffee opening in London in a matter of days, following Le Café Alain Ducasse at Coal Drops Yard.
Omotesando Koffee started life as a unique coffee experience in Tokyo, 2011. A hidden doorway in a residential neighbourhood, it was a compelling model: a cubic bar design wherein a single barista would serve a single customer, focussing on ritual and presence while brewing. The Japanese tea ceremony inspired the bar’s singular approach, and this devotion combined with an unexpected location earned Omotesando a loyal following of devotees, captivated by the artistry and precision applied to their daily drink. A sister brand, Koffee Mameya, was also opened in Tokyo, focussing on beans above brews by offering a rotating global selection in proprietary cloth bags.
After four years Omotesando closed, owing to concerns over the state of the building, and the shop — its profile boosted by features in magazines like Kinfolk — left a large and vocal cult following behind. At the time of closure, owner Eiichi Kunitomo promised a new Hong Kong shop for 2016, which duly opened, alongside another shop in the Toranomon area of Tokyo and another in Singapore. Each shop retains the functional minimalism and wooden tones of the original, but adapted to an individual sense of place: it will be interesting to see how the London edition follows suit. At the original, each cup was printed with the name of a different global city, reflecting Kunitomo’s desire to serve his coffee to as many people in the world as possible.
London’s essential coffee shops are diverse in their focus and various in their design; still, there’s no denying the creeping homogeneity that has stalked the city’s adoption of the third wave of coffee. Omotesando has the potential to be something genuinely new and exciting: hopefully it can fulfil that promise, and check back for more on it and Le Café Ducasse’s potential impact on high-end coffee in London.