Craving Coffee, Not Choice? Discover Japan's Best Omakase Coffee Shops

By Brianna Fox-Priest
Updated: May 24, 2024

Japan is a foodie's haven. Of course, it’s famous for spectacular sushi and ramen, but even coffee lovers are in for a treat. One specialized style of cuisine, omakase, has garnered global attention.

Omakase is not a new concept in Japan, but until recently, it was synonymous with sushi restaurants.

Now chefs focus more on the skill and art of creating specialized dishes that elicit a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This craft has made its way to Japan’s coffee world showing how omakase has adapted and pushed the needle forward in the coffee industry. 

What is omakase?

A chef serving up omakase sushi, adding the finishing touches to a sushi platter.

If you’re an adventurous eater, omakase cuisine may be right up your alley!

Omakase is a uniquely Japanese dining experience where you trust the chef to serve you a personalized meal of their choice. Typically there is no menu to select dishes from; the chef will change the menu based on available ingredients or may not reveal a menu to customers at all. 

Dating back to the Edo Period (1603–1868), Japanese sushi chefs mastered this craft centuries ago when they wanted to serve customers the best and freshest ingredients. The chef could show off their culinary skills and serve small dishes of varying flavors, giving each hungry customer a unique meal.

Omakase is perfect for those who are open to trying new dishes or who may not know what to order when traveling in Japan.

What does omakase mean in Japanese?

A chef serving up Japanese sushi, handing sushi to a waiting guest.

Let’s have a mini Japanese lesson on omakase:

Omakase (お任せ) is derived from the transitive verb, makaseru (任せる), meaning to leave or entrust someone with a decision.

The kanji, “任” conveys the Japanese values of responsibility and being entrusted to complete a duty or task.

This is the essence of omakase restaurants. The customer puts their faith in the chef to prepare them a unique and delicious meal. 

Isn’t it normally omakase sushi?

A chef handing a small dish with a garnished sushi dish.

The idea of omakase sushi took off in the 1990s, during Japan’s economic boom. Guests could enjoy the freshest catch of the day at high-end sushi restaurants without worrying about what to order. 

Omakase is meant to be a luxurious experience, so you should expect to pay more than you would at conveyor belt sushi restaurants. The best part of omakase sushi is that you will never have the same meal twice, even at the same restaurant.

It’s not just sushi. The chef creates a tailored and entertaining dining experience, serving varying dishes to each customer. Your meal will likely feature side dishes, sake, matcha, and small desserts.

Fancy sushi served on a black serving tray, showing a selection of seafood sushi.

Omakase sushi is the perfect solution for diners who may not be knowledgeable of the regional fish and ingredients and want to focus more on the overall experience, socializing with friends, or simply watching the chef craft beautiful dishes at the counter. 

In turn, omakase is a resourceful way for sushi chefs to never run out of ingredients. When an ingredient is gone, they can focus on creating a different option at that moment.

Omakase coffee in Japan

Three coffees in glasses, ranging from black to dark to milky.

While omakase is rooted in Japanese tradition, it has become increasingly popular in other parts of the world. This type of cuisine often refers to sushi restaurants, but omakase has spread to other industries like coffee. 

The latest trending omakase dining experience in Japan is omakase coffee. You can expect an elevated coffee menu beyond brewed coffee and milk. Similar to coffee cocktails, coffee omakase focuses on craftsmanship and unique ingredients to create a taste profile that compliments each coffee bean's unique tasting notes.

Omakase coffee shops are filled with award-winning baristas, giving you the coffee shop equivalent of Michelin restaurants. Due to the limited quantity of ingredients and seating area, reservations are required in advance. Once you arrive, you can anticipate a front-row seat to a live coffee performance. 

4 best omakase coffee spots in Japan

Ready to have the best omakase in Japan?

These omakase coffee spots are unlike any cafe you have ever been to. Sip on expertly crafted coffee concoctions in a way that you never knew existed at these omakase coffee locations:

1. Cokuun

Cokuun is making a buzz in Tokyo’s coffee and food scene and for good reason. It’s an exclusive reservation-only coffee counter at a secret location in Omotesando. Only four people can sit inside the coffee bar at one time.

Founder Hide Izaki, the first World Barista Champion from Japan, and the three-time WBC Finalist, Miki Suzuki, welcome guests to a 90-minute session. Rare coffee beans sourced from the world’s best coffee producers and seasonal Japanese ingredients are used to create four drinks personalized to your tastes. 

2. Lonich

The minimalist interior of Lonich, an omakase coffee cafe.

Recently celebrating its first anniversary, Lonich in Kuramae offers three reserved courses for coffee connoisseurs and the curious. The Creative Coffee Course is an omakase experience tailored by your personal barista allowing you to taste one-of-a-kind drinks and complimentary sweets.

Lonich also offers 20 varieties of filter coffee from countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania, El Salvador, and more which may be ordered for takeout. If you love the coffee, Lonich sells beans, equipment, and coffee subscriptions.

3. Koffee Mameya Kakeru

The industrial exterior of Koffee Mameya Kakeru, an omakase course menu coffee spot in Tokyo.

A powerhouse name around Tokyo, Koffee Mameya Kakeru is truly luxurious. Your reservation at their Kiyosumi-Shirakawa location gives you about a one-hour and 45-minute time slot to enjoy six expertly-mixed drinks.

Part omakase, part education lesson on coffee, a dedicated barista will walk you through each coffee, pointing out its nuances. Utilizing individual creativity and expertise, special cold brews and mocktails highlighting one specific coffee showcase its subtleties depending on the method and ingredients used.

4. Blue Bottle Studio Kyoto

The warm, stylish interior of Blue Bottle Studio Kyoto.

Operating on a limited seasonal basis only, the Blue Bottle Studio in Kyoto has reservations for a special coffee course in the Autumn and Spring as of now. Dates are extremely limited and the studio only has room for five guests.

Offering a diverse side of coffee, flights of coffee may also be brewed with coffee leaves, flowers, and the coffee cherry fruit, encompassing the whole plant to highlight its unique flavors. Five hand-crafted drinks and two small sweets are served per guest.

Drink the best omakase coffee in Japan

The idea of omakase has come a long way from sushi. Whether it's omakase sushi spots in Kyoto or Osaka or a taste of Japan’s latest omakase coffee trend, you can’t go wrong with leaving the decision up to the chef or barista.

If you crave a memorable coffee experience, omakase coffee in Japan is the way to go. Visiting one of the specialized shops mentioned above will surely challenge your perceptions of coffee.

While you decide where to go first, get to know Japan’s extensive coffee culture to whet your appetite!

Japanese coffee FAQs

A shot completed filled with coffee beans.

How much is a cup of coffee in Japan?

Like anywhere else in the world, the price of coffee varies greatly depending on where you go. You could pick up a cheap and cheerful canned coffee from a nearby konbini for around ¥150, or you could head to one of Japan’s more boutique coffee shops and roasteries and expect to pay more for high-quality coffee.

Is coffee popular in Japan?

It really is! In the same way that Japan borrowed Western whisky and beer and hit the ground running, creating their own culture and craft varieties, coffee is no different. Much like the Japanese attention to detail of any craft, the country has become incredibly influential in the coffee industry.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Brianna Fox-Priest
Your local cafe hopping expert. Brianna is a Japan writer and coffee shop enthusiast. Her days as a Japanese language student in Tokyo led to the discovery of the city's many hidden gems. When she's not writing, you can find her on the lookout for shrines or ice cream (and sometimes both).
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