Streamer has been a kind of holy-grail of coffee for me and a shop I have looked forward to visiting since I started this website. I first heard about them after reading some articles and watching their champion Sawada Hiroshi throw down some mind blowing latte art to claim international accolades. If there was ever a coffee celebrity I wanted to emulate, it was the venerable Sawada, hands down. Basically, Streamer made me a coffee fan-boy, which I never imagined was possible.
On my very first day back in Tokyo, I went straight to Streamer in Shibuya. At first, I was a little reticent; what if it didn’t live up to all the hype I had created, what if the mystique was lifted and it was something totally different from what I had imagined. It is funny how many times a friend or acquaintance tells me that “Japan was totally different” from what they had imagined. Not sure what their sources were (god forbid it was anime, better yet, maybe they should go somewhere other than just Tokyo) but it seems to be a theme, people have an idea of Japan and then somehow its just not what they thought it would be like. But I digress.
Short answer, yes, Streamer definitely lived up to my expectations. Beyond international acclaim, this is a place I treat with utter reverence and respect, and for good reason; the quality of the establishment, drinks, and especially the aura overall are of the highest standards. Streamer is located on the southside of Shibuya station and then east as if you are heading in the direction of Cat Street in Harajuku. One word of caution, bring a map or GPS. The one provided on the website is pretty vague. I wandered for about 30 minutes assuming it would be easy to find, nestled in some conventional spot on the busy thruway or corner. In actuality, it is located on a very quiet street about two blocks away from the main road, up a hill, surrounded by houses, a salon, and a small extension school. Not really where I expected to find an award winning store.
The facade of the building is enticing, hip, urban, and archetypal. In my opinion, it is the perfect blend of Japanese modern-esq, ultra-hip but not overdone, subtly majestic without so avaunt-garde (can buildings be that?) that it would be a “locals” or “enthusiasts” only type of place. The lay out is equally impressive. They have a fantastic bar, seating area, and overall warm aesthetic.
Unfortunately, the barista requested I not take photos inside the store, aside from my latte. But take my word for it, its all business. It is not a flashy, overstated show piece but a well loved shop that has seen its share of use and attentive care. The lay out and motif emanate the competition spirit they are known for, a nuance that I deeply admired and an element of the store that should not be overlooked. Streamer’s atmosphere is, in one word, 居心地 (igokochi – comfortable space). Being in the shop just felt special and a bit surreal. Call me biased, but the overall aesthetic, strong professional spirit, and internationally recognizable M.O. really sets this place apart. Don’t mistake this for snobriety, they are good and they know it. But it is well deserved confidence. In short, it was just cool.
The taste of the legendary Streamer cappuccino was undeniable. I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed the flavor, texture, and appearance of their drinks. I expected and received a competition quality drink in all regards. The espresso was smooth and flavorful with a hint of woodiness, the texture was undeniably velvety, the drink overall was well crafted with a beautifully blended milk/espresso ratio, and the art was, well, the photo says a lot more than I can. Overall, it was a champion level drink.
What I was also really impressed by, beside the obvious, was the friendliness and skill of the barista. I watched her craft several drinks with absolute care and precision (こだわり – kodawari – determination and fastidiousness). [Insert ignorant comment about Japanese industriousness]. She was very chatty, besides the fact we were both speaking our second languages. I asked her about other shops that might be worth trying. In other shops, doing this has been a bit of foupa; I do mean to be rude or suggest there might be somewhere better, I just want to get a lay of the land. She took out a small local map and started asking me, “what kind of flavor do you like for your coffee? are you ok with (x) kind of shop?” I was really floored by her care and openness about recommendations. After a few minutes, she suggested 3 other shops within a few stations and I was on my way.
To sum up, which I could never do adequately, Streamer is a legendary shop and well deserving of such accolades. Everything about the store, from the aesthetics to the service to the drinks, is really unparalleled. This is a must for enthusiasts.
- Aesthetics and the bar
- Relaxing seating area
- The flavor of my cap
- Competition spirit
- Confidence and professionalism