Around the World in Concept Coffee Shops
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Conceptual ways of serving up a good cup of coffee have been around for about as long as cafes have, as evidenced by such late-19th-century oddities as Paris' Café de L'Enfer. Things have only gotten weirder since then, and in places like Tokyo, where cultural novelties are an essential staple of urban life, weirdly themed coffee shops and cafes have made a caffeinated jolt into the mainstream. From the bizarre to the brilliant, we take you on a tour of some of the more unique concepts out there.
Bizarrely themed cafes have been popping up all over Japan. Among the strangest, these "neko" (Japanese for "cat") cafes originated in Taiwan and have since been imported to Tokyo. One of the more famous, Cat's Store, allows patrons to simultaneously get a caffeine fix and indulge their need for feline companionship in a city where limited space often means pet-free apartments.
Another Japanese curiosity, Mahika Mano is an island infused cafe that combines a hammock showroom with a very laid-back coffee shop atmosphere.
100% Chocolate Cafe
Who needs coffee when you have chocolate? And this beautifully designed Tokyo cafe by Masamichi Katayama serves up an unthinkable variety -- 56 different kinds, to be exact, housed in their lovely "chocolate library." You heard correctly.
The idea of using a coffee shop as your own personal office is probably pretty familiar to students, intellectuals, writers, freelancers, and people who like to read conspicuously. And although it's not all that strange, we really like the concept of designing cafes specifically tailored to emulate a workspace. A new wave of cafe-office hybrids, such as Urban Station in Buenos Aires, have been cropping up, offering wifi, electrical outlets, and spacious tables galore!
This fascinating Japanese concept cafe is a brilliant twist on the classic open-air design, interfacing its interior aesthetic with street traffic. Café/Day allows you to enjoy your coffee while worrying about confused motorists taking a wrong turn.
What better way to spend your caffeine buzz than trying your hand at stitching together the latest in French fashion? Paris' The Sweatshop combines coffee and crafts, making for a much more productive cafe-loitering experience than we're used to.
We'll limit ourselves to just one more Japanese novelty-themed cafe (seriously, there's tons of these). Robo Cafe in Osaka minimizes the need for human labor by using automated robotic servers.
Molecule Water Cafe
Milkbars and oxygen bars are old news -- Molecule Water Cafe, located in New York City's East Village, offers an über-high-tech filtered tap water experience that's sure to quench your thirst. NYC loves to brag about its exceptional tap water, but Molecule takes things a step further for even the most finicky H2O connoisseur among us.
Grand View Cafe
The Grand View Cafe in Vassalboro, Maine was forced to close in 2011 -- but, surprisingly, it wasn't due to harassment, exploitation, small-town controversy, health code violations, or any of the other countless problems that you might reasonably expect to arise with the concept of a topless waitstaff. Rather, the town insists it was because of misplaced signs and a zoning violation.
Horror Picture Tea
Paris's trendy Horror Picture Tea combines a cafe, a music venue, and a tattoo parlor into one bizarre conceptual medley.
This post also appears on Flavorpill, an Atlantic partner site.