A relative newcomer to Kyoto’s speciality coffee scene, Kurasu only opened in 2016. It seems a tad harsh to call it a chain, but shortly after my visit, in 2017, a second branch of Kurasu opened. In Singapore. While an excellent coffee shop in its own right, Kurasu also champions Japanese coffee products, such as pour-over filters, kettles and crockery, operating a worldwide mail order business, which is where Kurasu had its roots, starting in Australia in 2013, before the owner returned to his home town in 2016.
A five-minute walk from Kyoto’s main station, the coffee shop is a modest affair, long, and thin, with the counter on one side and minimal seating at the back. There’s a house blend from Single O, an Australian-based roaster with an outpost in Tokyo, while the pour-over and batch-brew feature single-origins from roasters around Japan, who change every month. There’s also a small selection of cake.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
I am indebted to Caffeine Magazine for the heads-up on Kurasu (which featured in Issue 26), since it’s not somewhere you’re likely to stumble upon by accident. Located in a cluster of small, quiet streets west of the railway station, it makes a perfect first (or last) stop if you’re travelling to the city by train. It’s a modest spot on a corner, the long side running along a pedestrian alley, with a small shop front facing onto the main street.
This is dominated by a single window, with a sliding glass door embedded on the left. Inside, it is equally simple, with the counter, running along the right-hand wall, occupying at least half the space, although it stops just short of the window at the front and the back wall, leaving space for retail shelves (coffee, at the front, on the right-hand wall; equipment, on the back wall). As well as the window at the front, there’s another along the left-hand wall, running almost half its length.
This is where you’ll also find the seating, such as it is. There’s a small, standing-only bar immediately to the left of the door, extending a little over the window, then, at the back, is a four-person bar with long, narrow stools. Finally, at the far end of the counter, is a single seat, perhaps the best spot in the whole place, where you can sit and watch the baristas at work.
As well as championing Japanese-designed coffee equipment (check out the wide range of pour-over filters at the back), Kurasu showcases Japanese roasters, which it features on pour-over (V60) and batch-brew (Moccamaster) alongside its house-blend, Reservoir, on espresso. During my visit last year, there were four single-origins available on pour-over from two roasters, Manly Coffee, from Fukuoka, and Morifuji Coffee, from Kanagawa, with a fifth single-origin from Morifuji on batch-brew.
Faced with all that choice, I went for a cappuccino with the house-blend and was rewarded with a very rich, creamy coffee, the milk going extremely well with the coffee, but allowing its natural flavours to come through. It was also extremely well-steamed, the milk holding the latte art to the bottom of the cup.
Although not specific to Kurasu, one thing I learnt on this trip is that, unlike the UK/US, where the barista will place your coffee on the counter for you to pick up, Japanese baristas are incredibly polite and will therefore hand you your coffee. Which, when you’re standing there, camera in hand, ready to take a picture of it, can be tricky. By the end of the trip, I’d learnt enough to put my camera down, politely take my coffee, then take a picture of it!
|552 HIGASHIABURANOKŌJICHŌ • SHIMOGYŌ-KU • KYOTO • 600-8235 • JAPAN|
|https://kurasu.kyoto||+81 (0) 75-744-0804|
|Monday||08:00 – 18:00||Roaster||Single O (espresso) + Guests (filter)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 18:00||Seating||Bar, Counter|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 18:00||Food||Cake|
|Thursday||08:00 – 18:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 18:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||08:00 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||International||Visits||25th April 2017, 1st September 2019|
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