Kyoto cafes as cool as %Arabica


The ancient capital of Kyoto may be better known for vermilion shrines and Zen Buddhist temples, but it would be a pity to miss out on the city’s vibrant cafe culture. After all, % Arabica was born here. To help you get the finest brew and the best out of your trip, we’ve compiled 10 Kyoto cafes to visit for a solid pick-me-up.


1. Weekenders Coffee


kyoto cafes - weekenders coffee
Storefront of Tominokoji branch
Image credit: @p_o_s_t_c_a_r_d_s

Good cafes can be found at every turn, even in the most unnoticeable and nondescript corner of a car park, which is where Weekenders Coffee is located. 

Before starting on a day of feasting and shopping at the nearby Nishiki Market and Kawaramachi, take a small detour and grab a cup of coffee at Weekenders Coffee.  

kyoto cafes - weekenders coffee
Image credit: @yun.graphy

Weekenders Coffee stood at the forefront of 3rd-wave coffee culture in Kyoto at a time when kissaten (traditional coffee shops) and brews made from dark roasts were all Kyotoites knew.

kyoto cafes - inside weekenders coffee
Image adapted from: @itsmemrpeyoung

Founder Masahiro Kaneko and his wife opened their 1st store in 2005, with the intention of introducing the Japanese public to espresso culture and light roast coffee. 

That’s why you’ll find that most of their in-house coffee beans are of lighter roasts, allowing patrons to taste acidity, fruitiness, and sweet floral notes.   

kyoto cafes - iced cafe latte
Iced Café latte
Image credit: @snackswithjacks

Their Tominokoji branch used to be an old warehouse, but has since been renovated to incorporate edgy espresso machines into the traditional architecture. There’s nowhere to sit other than a covered bench for 2, but you can mill around to see the baristas work their magic.  

kyoto cafes - pour over
Image credit: Weekenders Coffee

Customers can grab a pour over for ¥470 (~USD4.47), or opt for espresso-based drinks such as Cappuccino and Café Latte for ¥480 (~USD4.56) and ¥510 (~USD4.85) respectively. 

Their roastery is just a few streets away from the Kamo River, which is convenient for aspiring home baristas who’d like to purchase fresh coffee beans. 

Tominokoji
Opening hours: Thur – Tue 7.30AM-6PM (Closed on Wednesdays)
Address: 560 Honeyanocho, Nakagyo-ku, 604-8064 Kyoto
Telephone: 075-746-2206
Website

Roastery
Opening hours: Sat – Sun 10AM-5PM (Closed on Weekdays)
Address: 682-7 Ishihudonocho, Shimogyo-ku, 600-8047 Kyoto


2. Kurasu


Kurasu ebisugawa
Kurasu Ebisugawa
Image credit: @kurasu.kyoto

Salaryman-turned coffee enthusiast Yozo Otsuki took a leap of faith and made a mid-life career switch in 2013. He saw how quality Japanese homeware were highly sought after by international consumers, so he launched a lifestyle goods brand called Kurasu – it means “to live” in Japanese (暮らす).

Kyoto cafes - kurasu kyoto branch
Kurasu’s branch near Kyoto Station
Image credit: @kurasujp

After a short 2 year stint in Australia, Yozo saw potential in the home-grown coffee scene. Kurasu eventually rebranded itself to offer high-quality Japanese coffee wares and equipment, as well as coffee. 

Kyoto cafes - kurasu barista
Image credit: @kurasu.kyoto

Their first brick-and-mortar store opened its doors in 2016. Located in a quiet alleyway near the bustling Kyoto Station, Kurasu is an easily-accessible haven for like-minded coffee lovers to gather and geek out about everything coffee. 

They have since gained a cult following, both in Japan and internationally, for serving quality brews and offering a selection of local coffee goods – from exclusive Kurasu merchandise to equipment from reputable brands such as Hario.  

kurasu coffee
Image credit: @kurasu.kyoto

Many of their friendly staff are fluent in English, so don’t worry about possible miscommunication or having to convey what you want with frantic gestures. A range of espresso-based drinks are available from ¥400 (~USD3.81) onwards, and hand-dripped coffee starts at ¥500 (~USD4.76), depending on the blend.  

Kyoto cafes - matcha latte espresso
Image credit: @a.coco__35

For matcha lovers, get the best of both worlds and try their matcha latte espresso – a gorgeous 3-layered concoction with matcha, milk, and a shot of espresso – at ¥500 (~USD4.76). 

Coffee machine
Image credit: @kurasujp

You don’t have to miss out on good coffee just because you’re not in Japan right now. Kurasu offers a monthly coffee subscription where they ship freshly roasted coffee beans internationally. Opt for either their Kurasu Roast Plan or the Partner Roaster Plan, where they feature and partner up with speciality coffee roasteries in Japan. 

Every month, Kurasu interviews and introduces new coffee places in Japan, so check them out here and on their Instagram page. 

Kurasu Kyoto
Opening hours: 8AM-6PM, Daily
Address: 552 Higashiaburano-koji cho, 600-8235 Kyoto
Telephone: 075-744-0804
Website

Kurasu Ebisugawa
Opening hours: 9AM-5PM, Daily
Address: 551 Yamanakacho, Nakagyo Ward, 604-0815 Kyoto
Telephone: 075-222-5522

Kurasu Fushimi Inari
Opening hours: Fri – Mon 1PM-5PM (Closed on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays)
Address: 24-5 Fukakusa Haraigawachō, Fushimi-ku, 612-0013 Kyoto


3. Elephant Factory Coffee


Kyoto cafes - elephant factory coffee
Image credit: @pi_pi_camera_

Elephant Factory Coffee is one of those secret hideouts that you’ll never stumble upon unless an insider brings you there.  

Kyoto cafes - interior
Image credit: @mts7681136

And it’s for a good reason – getting there is no easy feat as you have to manoeuvre your way through narrow alleys, fiddle with Google maps as you second-guess yourself, before you finally arrive at an old building where the cafe is located.  

Kyoto cafes - interior coffee
Image credit: @yaping8667

Away from the buzz of the shopping district in Kawaramachi, the cafe will instantly transport you to another world, filled with dim lighting and a calming ambience, once you venture in. 

Kyoto cafes - interior
Image credit: @yaping8667

There are no fancy espresso machines here, only V-shaped drippers. Be prepared to fork out around ¥650 (~USD6.19) to ¥750 (~USD7.15) for a cup of hand-dripped coffee. Their in-house coffee is made with a blend of dark and medium roasts imported straight from their roasting room in Hokkaido, hence the premium price tag.  

Kyoto cafes - cheesecake
Image credit: @c.__haaa_

For something sweet to go with your cup of joe, try their homemade cheesecake (¥450, ~USD4.29). It is smaller than you’d expect, but its richness and creaminess will be more than enough to compensate for its size. 

Opening hours: Wed – Tue 1PM-1AM (Closed on Thursdays)
Address: 309 Bizenjimacho, Nakagyo Ward, 604-8023 Kyoto
Telephone: 075-212-1808


4. Here


Kyoto cafes - here
Image credit: @here.kyoto

Forget dunking biscotti in a cup of cappuccino – canelés are the new perfect accompaniment to your cup of brew. 

Kyoto cafes - canele
Image credit: @here.kyoto

Canelé is a dainty French pastry with a custard-y interior and a crust that has been baked to caramelised perfection. The idea to pair coffee with canelés came about when the founder of Here tasted the “best canelé” during his trip to Paris.

Here interior
Image credit: @here.kyoto

Here was opened by Junichi Yamaguchi, a well-known barista who came in 1st at the Coffee Fest Latte Art World Championship in 2014. He used to be the head barista of % Arabica, so you can rest assured that you’ll get coffee of a similar calibre, sans the crowd. 

Kyoto cafes - here interior
Image credit: @here.kyoto

Kyoto cafes - here interior
Image credit: @here.kyoto

The interior of the cafe is spacious and screams minimalism with warm wood, concrete surfaces, and a neutral colour palette. There is also a sleek black roasting machine at the back of the room, where Here roasts their own coffee beans. 

Kyoto cafes - black coffee
Image credit: @here.kyoto

Enjoy a cup of black coffee for ¥400 (~USD3.81), or an espresso for ¥300-¥350 (~USD2.86-USD3.34), depending on the blend you choose. Coffee drinkers who love their coffee with milk can opt for milk-based coffee from ¥500-¥650 (~USD4.77-USD6.19). Be sure to pair your drinks with the cafe’s signature canelés, which are sold in sets of 3 at ¥1,150 (~USD10.96)

Opening hours: 8AM-7PM, Daily
Address: 524 Anenishinotoin-cho, Nakagyo-ku, 604-8273 Kyoto
Telephone: 075-254-8260
Website


5. Oyamazaki Coffee Roasters


oyamazaki coffee roasters
Image credit: @quwaaan

Though it is slightly out of the way in Oyamazaki – a small town located 40 minutes away from central Kyoto by train – home baristas and coffee lovers should not miss Oyamazaki Coffee Roasters.

Kyoto cafes - coffee
Image credit: @kurasu.kyoto

Opened in 2013 by Mayumi and Keita Nakamura, Oyamazaki Coffee Roasters has made a name for themselves thanks to their unique retail system. Drinks are not sold at the premises. Instead, customers can sample any coffee from their selection of beans for free, and then purchase their preferred beans.

Kyoto cafes - making coffee
Image credit: @erica_cafestagram

Their single-origin coffee beans, which are sourced from various countries such as Indonesia and Rwanda, are sold in 100g packs and priced no more than ¥1,000 (~USD9.53)

Kyoto cafes - interior
Image credit: @shun8128

For those who like to alternate between different beans, you can purchase their gift set which comes with 4 types of coffee beans. It retails at ¥3,200 (~USD30.49).

Kyoto cafes - paper bags coffee beans
Image credit: @kyotolife_magazine

Any coffee connoisseur will know that using fresh coffee beans is the 1st step to a good brew. In order to ensure freshness and preserve the flavour, Oyamazaki Coffee Roasters make it a rule to sell beans within 3 days after roasting. 

The coffee beans are also sold whole as the owners firmly believe that grinding your beans just moments before brewing will yield a more bodied cup of coffee.  

Opening hours: Thur & Sat 10AM-3PM (Closed on Mon–Wed, Friday, and Sunday)
Address: 56-1 Shirie, Oyamazaki, Otokuni District, 618-0071 Kyoto
Telephone: 0‭75-925-6856‬
Website


6. Wife&Husband


Kyoto cafes - Wife&Husband
Image credit: @_nori_h_.o.o

You’d have no problem spotting Wife&Husband from a distance as the storefront of the cafe is adorned with a bunch of wooden and rattan furniture.

Interior
Image credit: @sunrisecoffee.trip

Unlike most cafes these days, which tend to have a Scandinavian interior design, Wife&Husband oozes rustic cosiness. The antiques in the store also adds another layer of charm and old-school character.

Coffee
Image credit: sori kim

Their simple coffee menu consists of just 2 options – drip coffee made from their in-house coffee, and café au lait. The drinks are priced at ¥550 (~USD5.24) and ¥600 (~USD5.71) respectively.

Kyoto cafes - butter toast
Image credit: @_earth______

For breakfast, go for their butter toast (¥350, ~USD3.33) or honey cheese toast (¥450, ~USD4.29).

Kyoto cafes - outdoor
Image credit: @perthh

According to Wife&Husband, breakfast in bed is so yesterday. Instead, enjoy the coffee outside, picnic-style, by the Kamo River. Picnic baskets are available for rent at ¥1,100 (~USD10.48) per 1.5 hour block. The whole shebang comes with a rattan thermo flask filled with hot coffee, bite-sized pastries, mugs, and a tablecloth.  

Folding table
Image credit: @kariplum

For the ultimate picnic experience, you can add on stools, straw mats, and even folding tables from ¥150 (~USD1.43) onwards. 

If any vintage pieces in the café catch your eye, head over to their gallery, Son&Daughter. Just a 30-minute train ride away from the cafe, the gallery sells beautiful antique pieces such as plates, glassware, and ornaments that are used or displayed in Wife&Husband. 

Wife&Husband
Opening hours: 10AM-5PM, Daily (Closed irregularly, so check their schedule before you drop by)
Address: 106-6 Shimouchikawara-cho, Koyama, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, 603-8132 Kyoto
Telephone: 075-201-7324
Website

Son&Daughter
Opening hours: 12AM-6.30PM, Daily (Closed irregularly, so check their schedule before you drop by)
Address: 22 Kamaya-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 600-8239 Kyoto
Telephone: 075-203-2767


7. Nijo Koya


Kyoto cafes - nijo koya
Image credit: @luvl_hee

A literal hole in the wall, Nijo Koya is located in the vicinity of the popular tourist spot Nijo Castle. The old-fashioned standing coffee bar, situated in a quiet corner of a small parking lot, serves hand dripped coffee, hot sandwiches, carrot cake, and whisky. 

Kyoto cafes - barista
Image credit: @yoshi.0.95

First-time visitors may be taken aback by the slightly cramped premises as the cafe used to be a traditional Japanese house the size of 6 tatami mats (六畳, roku jyō) – approximately 9.18 sqm. Despite the size, this hidden coffee gem is well worth the trip, thanks to its quirky atmosphere and soothing jazz music to boot.  

Kyoto cafes - drip coffee
Image credit: @no.la_bam_bam_bam

If you just want to grab a drink and go, you can watch the barista prepare your coffee through the small window on the side of the store.  

Interior
Image credit: @soomshegi

Drip coffee made from single-origin beans and blends are priced from ¥410 (~USD3.93). Those with a sweet tooth should order Nijo Koya’s homemade carrot cake (¥390, ~USD3.74) to go with their robust cup of coffee. Hot sandwiches (¥390, ~USD3.74) are also available if you’d like to grab a small bite in the morning before embarking on a day of sightseeing. 

Opening hours: Wed – Sat 11AM-8PM | Sun – Mon 11AM-6PM (Closed on Tuesdays)
Address: 382-3 Mogamicho, Nakagyo Ward, 604-8303 Kyoto
Telephone: 090-6063-6219


8. Blue Bottle Coffee


Kyoto cafes - blue bottle coffee
Image credit: @old_blackk

Before you head to Nanzenji, a massive Zen Buddhist temple in the forested hills of Kyoto, drop by Blue Bottle Coffee. Originating from Oakland, California, Blue Bottle Coffee is a coffee roaster that has sprung up in sprawling metropolises such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, and Kobe. Currently, the coffee brand has 20 branches in Japan alone. 

Kyoto cafes - nanzenji branch
Image credit: @____ikumi_193____

Their branch near Nanzenji was the brand’s first foray into the Kansai region. Opened in 2018, the cafe has since gained a loyal following thanks to their unique architecture, which preserves the layout of a machiya (町屋, traditional wooden townhouse). 

Kyoto cafes - interior
Image credit: @tonano___photo___

The cafe’s interior is spacious, sleek, and retains touches of traditional elements, making it a relaxing spot where customers can chill and have a chat over a cup of coffee.

Kyoto cafes - interior
Image credit: Xiu Ting Wong

Blue Bottle Coffee offers a wide selection of pastries and coffee, but we’d recommend going for their pour overs. Their pour overs are priced from ¥450 (~USD4.31) onwards for blends and ¥550 (~USD5.27) for single-origin beans.  

Eagle-eyed coffee enthusiasts with knowledge of equipment will notice that the baristas use in-house drippers, rather than those from reputable brands such as Hario or Kalita. Their dripper (¥2,500, ~USD23.97) is crafted and made in Arita, a town in Saga Prefecture known for their porcelain. 

Kyoto cafes - mocha
Image credit: @cafedango

For milk-based drinks, our top pick would be their Café Mocha (¥600, ~USD5.75). Top up ¥100 (~USD0.96) if you prefer single-origin beans. We’re not sure what Blue Bottle Coffee uses for this magical concoction, but there’s something about the slight acidity of the cocoa that pairs wonderfully with their in-house espresso. 

Opening hours: 9AM-6PM, Daily
Address: 64 Kusagawacho Nanzenji, Sakyo-ku, 606-8437 Kyoto
Website


9. Goodman Roaster


Kyoto cafes - goodman roaster
Image credit: @chen.andcoffee

You may know Alishan, the mountainous region in Taiwan, for their highly coveted oolong tea. But the region famous for their tea production is also home to high-quality coffee beans. Coffee plants grown at a higher altitude, with a temperature of no more than 28℃ even in the hottest months, produce coffee beans that are more fragrant and sweeter than usual.

Kyoto cafes - interior
Image credit: @chen.andcoffee

When the founder of Goodman Roaster, Ito Atsuomi, first tasted Taiwanese coffee produced in Alishan, he was blown away by the taste. He thus established Goodman Roaster with the intention of introducing Japanese consumers to the world of light roast Taiwanese coffee. 

Kyoto cafes - coffee
Image credit: @goodman_roaster_kyoto

You’ll find that most drinks offered at the cafe are made with Taiwanese coffee produced in Alishan and roasted in-house. The owners can speak English and Chinese on top of their native Japanese, so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with them to find out more about their coffee.

Hot brew
Image credit: @goodman_roaster_kyoto

Apart from Alishan coffee, Goodman Roaster also has a selection of filter coffee made with single-origin beans from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Guatemala. A hot brew costs ¥550 (~USD5.27), while having it iced will require an additional ¥20 (~USD0.19)

Alternatively, you can splurge on their signature Alishan coffee, which will set you back by ¥1,600-¥1,650 ( (~USD14.67-USD15.13). It’s a princely sum for coffee, but the drink is served in a beautiful traditional teapot along with some snacks. 

Opening hours: 11AM-6PM, Daily (Closed irregularly, so check their Instagram before you drop by)
Address: 115-2 Yada-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, 600-8442 Kyoto
Telephone: 070-2327-5493
Website


10. Tabinone Coffee


Kyoto cafes - tabinone coffee
Image credit: Manmaru

Tabinone Coffee, which means “the sound of travelling” (旅の音) in Japanese, is a roastery and cafe that is passionate about sharing the stories behind their coffee. It used to be a classroom in an art school, but has since been transformed into a humble roastery. 

Interior
Image credit: @kitabett

The owner is a firm believer in knowing where your coffee comes from and takes a hands-on approach to sourcing green coffee beans.

Making coffee
Image credit: @onlyroaster

By personally making the trip down to microlots (small coffee farms) around the world and supporting small-scale farmers who are producing unique coffee beans, Tabinone Coffee aims to build lasting and ethical relationships with like-minded, passionate farmers. 

To fully appreciate the work that goes into making a cup of filter coffee (¥500, ~USD4.79), read up on the owner’s journey and the behind-the-scenes on the cafe’s website and on their menu in-store.

Kyoto cafes - creme caramel
Image credit: @konakko

Strawberry Mont Blanc crème caramel
Strawberry Mont Blanc crème caramel
Image adapted from: @katomi0710

The cafe has an assortment of sweets and seasonal desserts that are just as good as their drinks. In particular, Tabinone Coffee’s crème caramel (¥480, ~USD4.60) is not to be missed. They release limited edition flavours from time to time, so check out their Instagram page before you head down. 

Opening hours: Tue – Sun 11AM-7PM (Closed on Mondays)
Address: 30-3 Sakyo Ward, Tanaka Higashiharunacho THE SITE A, 606-8247 Kyoto
Telephone: 090-6063-6219
Website


Kyoto cafes to visit besides % Arabica


The next time you’re in Kyoto, head to these Kyoto cafes to pick up a specialty cup of coffee in the morning before you embark on sightseeing. And when you’re tired and in need of a place to unwind, you know where to go too.

For more places to visit in Japan, check out these articles: 


Cover image adapted from: @perthh and @pi_pi_camera_

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