When you travel to a new city as a tourist it is easy to fill your trip with destinations that are the most popular with other tourists, the temples, the flashy lights. Sometimes these areas get so popular with the tourists that the locals themselves stop visiting, or visit less. It transforms into something different than what once attracted the tourists to visit in the first place, but still, the tourists keep flocking.
So as a tourist we often go searching for those areas that the tourists haven’t found yet. But even those areas, we are often not alone since there are more and more tourists looking for what we are looking for as well. So the next step is to stop looking for places to visit altogether and to just wonder. Granted, our wonder wasn’t completely random, we decided to wonder today in the direction of Minimal chocolate.
I can’t imagine many foreigners find their way to Minimal. It is off the beaten track but, thanks to the fantastic train system in Tokyo, easy to get to. The walk from the train station to Minimal brings you through a different Tokyo than you see following the crowds, mothers (always mothers) on motorized bikes with a seat in the front for a baby and another in the back for a toddler, lots of people wearing dark coloured suits walking in every direction.
But if you are a fan of bean to bar chocolate, and interested in learning more about Japan’s increasing interest in bean to bar, Minimal should be on your list of places to visit. They are one of the pioneers of quality chocolate in Japan. We had the place to ourselves when we arrived. The whole bean to bar process takes places right here in this tiny little shop. Glass windows give a peak of the whole process, although today everything was quiet. In store, all bars are available for tasting and they take the approach of marketing the bars based on their flavour profile. Fruity, savoury, nutty, bitter, sweet, but each from a different single origin, Columbia, Nicaragua, Trinidad, Haiti etc.. Their labels give you more information than chocolate makers usually share about their bars. You get the origin and even region within that country where the cocoa beans are from, the variety and year of the crop. They also share the temperature and time they roast their cocoa beans at, and whether they conch or not.
Minimal keeps their chocolate quite coarse so their hot chocolate was coarse as well. They melt down their Nutty bars and add warm milk, hence the pretty high price for a small quantity of hot chocolate (650yen). But the flavour profile of the chocolate comes through nicely in this form as well and we enjoyed ours.
The menu is in Japanese so we didn’t realise that we could try pulp until we saw someone else dip in for a quick drink and order some. When you crack open a fresh cocoa pod inside you find individual beans and each one of these beans is surrounded by a thick white substance, the pulp. The pulp of the cocoa pod isn’t something you can usually order in cafes since it comes from the fresh pod but more and more cafes are offering this. It has a sweet taste with a slight sourness, almost like a mild lychee, but nothing like chocolate.
Verdict: If you are in Shibuya stop by and visit. If you are in Tokyo for longer sign up for one of their chocolate workshops. Minimal Chocolate, 2-1-9 Futagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.