Au Revoir and Arigatō – the Tokyo-Paris connection from Two and Two
By Sarah Luisa Santos . May 8, 2015
Yesterday I dropped by at Two and Two, a very charming café in Pannierstrasse, owned by French-Japanese duo Tose and Eri.
Tose, who greeted me for the interview, right away explained to me the origin of the name: “Two and Two is because we are two and from two different countries. I am half French and half Japanese, and Eri is from Tokyo.”
The place has (at least for me) a very unusual mix of products: coffee and stationery. At the entrance you can find all sorts of notebooks, pens, erasers, bags… all made in Japan.
“Eri is a painter. She studied at the Fine Arts School in Tokyo, and we both like to use good stationery… stationery that’s uniquely Japanese. For myself, when I go to Japan, I always buy so many pens, notebooks… I thought would be a good idea to have it all here, and, of course, also make coffee! We have a funny thing to propose and share with people.”
Tose explained to me that her love for stationery comes from her childhood years in France, always surrounded by Japanese pens and Hello Kitty erasers.
“The quality of the materials in Japan is amazing. Just a simple pen writes better, lasts longer, and the design always very original. It’s always nice and cute… I think my love for stationery started in my childhood (laughs). When I was a child, all of my favorite erasers and pens came from Japan and this is something that’s continued into my adulthood.”
I must admit that I also had the same feeling. In the corner of my house back in Brazil there was a Japanese shop called Momotaro, only selling these very colorful, cute little things. I believe many of you will have pangs of nostalgia walking into Two and Two.
“Most of people come and say Two and Two is a funny, weird combination. They use the word combination, which I find interesting. It wasn’t too much of a conscious decision to sell pens and coffee, it was just like… let’s do something we love and we can’t find it here. To be honest, it could have been anything else, too, like clothes, anything that we like… it’s almost a coincidence that it ended up this way!”
The café opened in December of 2012, and besides the delicious treats it sells, it also hosts young artists’ exhibitions.
“Now we have small exhibitions. Me and Eri have many artist friends, like photographers and painters, and in the beginning it was just Eri’s work and my boyfriend’s silk screens over the walls.
Then, friends started to say “oh can I have my stuff there too?” so we decided to open our walls to all. It is something that happened very naturally.
“At the moment we have this Japanese photographer that just moved to Berlin a year ago. He came to us and showed his portfolio and we thought it was really good… so there it is!”
I also asked Tose about her menu, as she brought me a rice tea with special sweet nut on the side, called Kokuto Kurumi, literally meaning “brown sugar and nuts” in Japanese.
As Tose explained to me, the menu has a balance between the two cultures. They have things ranging from Canelé, which is a traditional pastry from the south of France, made with rum and vanilla, to Matcha Cake, made from green tea powder, traditionally used in the tea ceremony but now popular in cakes.
The baking is all done by Tose, who tests the recipes herself, and said “If I don’t want to eat it, I don’t want to serve it.” Regarding my question about vegan options, she said she even tried to make it, but it’s not possible to make good French pastry completely vegan.
On the other hand, they have gluten free recipes like the chocolate cake, and Tose guarantees it is a total hit. The coffee is provided by Coffee Circle, famous for their fair trade and organic beans.
And, for the future, Tose revealed they’ve now hired a Pâtissier from France, who promises to bring their recipes to the next level.
“I want keep our standards (of simple, homemade food), but we also want to have more fun and try new things.”
Two and Two also hosts a pop-up restaurant, next one happening on May 21st.
“We have a friend who’s a cook, and he comes here and makes his pop-up restaurant. The next one is on May 21st. People can expect oriental, Japanese and French food. Our friend is Turkish, so it was a really great idea to mix all these worlds, especially here in Neukölln, where everything is so multicultural.”
“The menu is gonna be served in a bento box (Japanese lunch box), and it is really going to be special… food that you will not taste anywhere else.”
And for Neukölln Shopping Nacht?
“We’re planning something special, but I still have to talk to Eri about it (laughs). But we’re definitely going to have an Apéro (French happy hour) with drinks, music and something stationery-related.”
Two and Two is located at Pannierstrasse 6, Neukölln, Berlin.
Images: courtesy of Tose