Dylan is a coffee
snob enthusiast, which means that I’ve developed a small understanding of what goes into “good” coffee through proximity. Before going to Tokyo, he had compiled a list of must-visit coffee shops, and top on the list was Bear Pond Espresso. Tokyo is brimming with great coffee, but Bear Pond stands out. Its owner, Katsuyuki Tanaka, fell in love with third wave roasters while working as an ad man in New York City. Without any formal training, he and his wife returned to Japan and opened their cafe in Shimokitazawa, a laid-back neighborhood west of Shibuya.
Tanaka-san is serious about his espresso. So serious that he won’t make it after 2pm, he makes baristas train for a year before they can pull one, and he won’t allow anyone to take pictures inside the tiny shop. So you’ll have to imagine The Dirty, his signature drink. It’s a small Mason jar filled with cold milk and espresso shots, layered atop each other for an ombré effect. We were instructed to drink The Dirty as it was served, without mixing it up to ruin the beauty or flavor. I decided to risk a lactose-intolerant episode and have one sip. It was creamy, bittersweet, rich — vaguely reminiscent of an affogato, but smoother.
And the espresso? Thick, dark, silky, gloriously muddy. Usually espresso is too bitter for me, but this was another drink entirely. It was more concentrated, which somehow replaced the bitterness with a slightly chocolatey flavor. We could have gone back for another and another, had caffeine not propelled us onward to our next adventure. (Doughnuts.)