Bear Pond had an intriguing reputation that proceeded it; I heard the shop boasted excellent quality but was also notoriously “rude.” Usually, I shy away from such places, especially for the sake of objectivity in my reviews, but I wanted to see what customers meant by “rude” because, by my personal standards, Japanese “rude” is pretty much on par with standard American service. Since many Japanese consumers seem particularly concerned with quality service, could Bear Pond’s continued patronage indicate a truly high quality product if they were, in fact, rude? Could a shop in Japan really rival the snobbery of some US third wave enterprises? By the end, I was surprised by both their service and their quality in ways I did not expect.
Upon recommendation, a friend and I visited the shop in Shibuya for an afternoon pick-me-up. My initial thought, though a bit unfounded, was that it almost seemed out of place, merely because it exemplified the aesthetics of many notable American shops rather than typical Japanese cafes. BP has a simple, industrial/wood motif, spacious, and bright. The shop has a small bar with seating facing out towards the street and a warm atmosphere that is perfect for conversing, working, or simply relaxing. This is quite important to note; given the hustle and bustle of Shibuya, such flexibility is a treat! Their espresso set-up/bar was textbook and beyond capable of putting out high quality drinks.
Intrigued, enthralled, and excited, I was apprehensive, half-expecting and half-dreading to have the bad vibe spoiled by “bad service.” But, the baristas were notably cordial, though maybe not as personable as one might expect from a craft coffee shop. I think by Japanese standards (this is just based on my opinion taken from my experience living in both countries), their hands-off approach might come off as “rude” given the gamut of exceedingly high quality of service most consumers are bombarded with at department and specialty stores on a daily basis. For me personally, after having experienced some rather nasty egos in US coffee, BP doesn’t even show up on the rudeness radar. The baristas were all attentive and hospitable. They answered all of my questions and only flashed a hint of sternness when they requested that I not take photos of certain parts of the store. Overall, I found them professional and not over the top/in your face about coffee or the craft, which can actually be quite refreshing. So, if you are hesitant to venture over to BP because of potentially bad service, do not be discouraged! Try them out for yourself.
In terms of the coffee, I thought they were excellent, but not exceptional. As most of my reviews indicate (at least, that is my hope), most stores are great in their own ways and almost all of the reviews on this site are are “A’s amidst other A’s.” Bear Pond is a solid A in terms of quality, price, and flavor. My cap was overall quite good. While it may have lacked visual appeal, it more than made up for this small oversight with well textured milk and smooth espresso. The milk/espresso ratio was perfect and well stratified; not separated, overly foamy, or overwhelmingly milky or espressoy in flavor. Most surprising, it was quite affordable in comparison to other specialty shops in Tokyo (and for food prices in general).
In all, I highly recommend Bear Pond for it’s quality, space, and overall aesthetic appeal. It just goes to show that reputations are not always what they seem, though unfortunately, the opposite is far too often the case. Everyone should.,. has to try a shop for themselves and formulate their own opinions.
- Location in Shibuya
- Espresso and flavor, sprisingly well-rounded