Kyoto might be the spiritual home of the ancient tea ceremony, but a perfectly roasted coffee is the fuel of choice in Japan’s ancient capital.
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?
Japanophile Jane Lawson, a chef-turned-writer, leads luxury tours of Kyoto with all the gourmet trimmings. Here are Jane’s five favourite places to drink it in Kyoto:
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.
Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Hoshinocho 8 7-5, +81 75-746-3669
Tricky to find but worth it for an early morning heart-starter. 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.
Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Honeyanocho 560 +81 75-746-2206
Hidden up a quaint alley, this quintessential Kyoto cafe 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, Yanagihachimancho, 74−4, +81 75-213-4485
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.
Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, 〒604-8031, +81 75-241-2210
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.
Kyoto, Takakuradori Nishikikoji Sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, 604-8125, +81 75 213 1445
Jane Lawson also writes fabbo books on all things Nippon:
She 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).
Renowned hospo writer, Wendy Hargreaves, has started writing for Smudge Eats. We’ve been good mates for a while and now we are lucky enough to have her mentoring us and writing for us as well. Wendy runs her own, amazing blog called 5 of the Best. Have a read of her awesome stories here.