Bear Pond is one of the better known specialty coffee destinations in Tokyo, having made a good impression on a number of blogs, magazines, and newspaper articles over the past few years. According to scattered reportage, owner Katsu Tanaka lived in the US for quite a few years and apparently worked as a trainer (or some other capacity) with well known specialty coffee purveyors Counter Culture Coffee and Gimme! Coffee.

Bear Pond’s small, unassuming location is opposite a gourmet donut shop, on an interesting street full of similarly quirky establishments in Shimokitazawa. The cafe is easily overcrowded with reverent patrons waiting for their coffee. I was looking forward to this visit, having heard their reputation, but I guess I came on a bad day.

The whole experience was fussy and overly precious. First, the no-photos signs plastered all over the walls aren’t exactly welcoming. Second, when I ordered an espresso I was told that I couldn’t, and something about having run out of beans. According to their website, they only serve espresso until 2 pm. The woman behind the counter then tapped her fingers and stared until I relented and ordered a cappuccino, served up in a paper cup. Why couldn’t I just try the espresso blend they were using for milk drinks? I didn’t push the issue, so who knows. I could have explained that I wanted to write a post about their cafe, but I’d lost interest by that point. When my friend and I finally received our drinks, we stood by the boards that serve as tables, and took the first sips — whereupon we were told, passive-aggressively, that we should get out because my girlfriend, the third person in our group, hadn’t ordered a drink.

I get it. It’s Tokyo and rent is high and space is limited and you’re running a business. You take your coffee very seriously and you’ve gotten a lot of positive press. You want to assure high quality standards. That’s fine. I’m sure your espresso is great, but the only thing I remember is how glad I was to leave.

Maybe I visited on a bad day. It happens. So take this review for what it is, and let me know how your experience was in the comments below.

Map after the break.

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