You can always check my old posts about Utsunomiya and how with the exception of Miya Matsuri I was quite underwhelmed by the city. It still got a post, unlike Ashikaga or Mito, but I didn’t really get what the city was about. I’m not sure if things are just looking up for Tochigi, I’m more willing to accept fun things, having a friend from the city helps, or I was just never able to find the cool and social parts, but Utsunomiya is definitely not a bad place. The city seems much more lively and social than I remember and has a lot of hidden gems I was never able to find the first time around. Apparently Jazz is also a big thing there, though when I went to a jazz bar it seemed to be just someone playing pop on an electric piano. But to put the cherry on top, I found a cafe that uses Bear Pond Espresso coffee beans.
New Yorkers will know that seeing a shop that serves up Stumptown is nice but a common enough occurrence to tell us little about the cafe, and that it would be more notable if a cafe were serving up Blue Bottle or Gimme. Katsu doesn’t really let other cafes use his beans in an attempt to keep the brand associated with quality, so far so good, so it was incredibly surprising to find that the a cafe, in Utsunomiya of all places, serves Bear Pond. The owner told me she is the only shop not associated with Bear Pond to use their beans. Gibbs 5 has a similar drink to Bear Pond’s signature ‘Dirty’ and also serves espresso at any time for those of you who are incited by Katsu’s no espresso after 11ish rule. The owner is a very skilled barista, and instead of comparing her to Katsu, let’s just say that if I still lived in Tochigi I’d probably be up there almost every weekend.
The smooth milk and chocolatey flavors of the beans worked out well together and was just as good as the coffee at No. 8 in Shibuya. The cafe also has alcohol and looks like a good place to hang out at night as well. So if you ever find yourself in Utsunomiya, maybe waiting an unbearably long time for the Nikko express, you owe it to yourself to check out Gibbs 5.