Kyoto might be the spiritual home of the ancient tea ceremony, but a perfectly-roasted coffee is the fuel of choice. Wherever you go in Kyoto, you’re never more than a dawdle from quality espresso. And the local baristas take their beans seriously. So where are the best places to get your caffeine hit in Japan’s most popular tourist town?
Five of the Best asked our favourite Japanophile Jane Lawson (pictured), a chef-turned-writer who leads luxury tours of Kyoto with all the gourmet trimmings*. Jane also writes fabbo books on all things Nippon (Zenbu Zen, Tokyo Style Guide and Yoshoku to name a few) and works with her equally Japan-obsessed husband Gerard collecting goodies for their online store Zenbu Home (think vintage hand-made kimonos, artisan ceramics, stationery and other cool Japanese stuff).
All of this is fuelled by vast amounts of artfully-brewed coffee. Here are Jane’s five favourite places to drink it in Kyoto:
- Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Hoshinocho 8 7-5, +81 75-746-3669
- Hands down my number one pick for coffee in Kyoto. Smooth, balanced yet gutsy flavour and strength. With just a couple of spots to perch at in each of their three Kyoto outlets, Arabica is more about take-out than chill-out – even some of the staff are too cool for school.
- Tricky to find but worth it for an early morning heartstarter. Unlike many Kyoto coffee options (which don’t get going until almost mid-morning) Weekenders is pulling coffee from 7.30am. This is a serious bean roaster and shop, with barista workshops on offer. For a buzz that will last all day – this is your go to. Their espresso is the strongest, most fruit and acid driven brew in K-town.
- Hidden up a quaint alley, this quintessential Kyoto café is easy to miss. But don’t. The cosy, natural-fibre-knitting-club vibe is warm and inviting but it’s their ace Vienna Coffee with whiskey on the side that keeps my fire burning.
- Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 〒604-8031, +81 75-241-2210
- In the midst of the downtown hustle and bustle, this attractive haven sits peacefully above the crowds. The owner’s slow pour-over filtered coffee style is mesmerising. And bloody delicious. Meditative background tunes, house-made caramels and nougat cheesecake complete the circle of happiness.
- Takakuradori Nishikikoji Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8125,
- This roadside stand sells beans for home as well as take-away coffee, and it’s the most convenient place for a caffeine pick-me-up when you’re shopping near the famous Nishiki food market. This flavoursome, easy drinking, everyday kinda brew hits the spot every time.
* Jane returns to Kyoto for her next gourmet tour in May, 2018. There are still a couple of spots for this 15-day food and culture extravaganza but you’ll have to get in quick. It’s almost sold out.