Vermillion Café

A lovely espresso at Vermillion Cafe in Kyoto, made using its bespoke house-blend and served in a classic cup.Vermillion is a chain of precisely two in Kyoto, with an espresso bar next to the Inari train station and, five minutes’ walk away, by a large pond at the foot of Mount Inariyama, is the Vermillion Café, subject of today’s Coffee Spot. I didn’t spend long enough in Kyoto, Japan’s old Imperial capital, nor did I get to many coffee shops, but with my visit to Vermillion, I definitely saved the best until last!

Vermillion Café has a small outside seating area at the front (northern) end, which catches the evening sun, while inside, it’s long and relatively wide, with a couple of large tables. However, the best part is at the back, where the south-facing wooden terrace overlooks the pond. Here you’ll find the best views and perhaps my favourite spot for coffee in the whole of Japan.

Vermillion serves coffee roasted by the local Weekenders Coffee, with a bespoke house-blend on espresso and a choice of a blend or single-origin on pour-over through the V60, all of which can be had hot or over ice. There’s also a limited range of tea, beer and soft drinks, plus, if you’re hungry, a small selection of sandwiches and cake.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • One of the many Vermillion gates at the foot of Mount Inariyama in Kyoto...
  • ... after which today's Coffee Spot, Vermillion, is named. It's got lovely outside seating...
  • ... while the name is conveniently located on the side of the building.
  • There's also a handy A-board...
  • ... and a neat little sign on the window sill next to the door.
  • There's also another sign, chalk-drawn this time, inside the door on the left.
  • Vermillion occupies a long, wide space, with the counter on the left, seating on the right.
  • There's also a pair of chairs next to the window to the left of the door.
  • The counter is a handsome affair occupying most of the left-hand side.
  • You can make coffee tables out of almost everything...
  • ... although this one, towards the back, is more conventional and has more seats.
  • Vermillion through the looking glass....
  • ... followed by a more conventional view, looking towards the front of Vermillion.
  • A view of the counter from the back.
  • Turning around, there is another set of doors beyond the counter at the back...
  • ... which open out onto the most wonderful, sheltered wooden terrace behind Vermillion.
  • When the weather is good, both sets of double doors can be opened.
  • There's plenty of seating out here, starting with this three-person table at the back...
  • ... and followed by this table in the middle of the upper terrace...
  • ... while this one is at the back on the left.
  • I love the little coffee tables with the baskets (for your things) underneath.
  • There's more seating down on the lower park of the terrace, including a rocking chair.
  • Meanwhile, there's another small table on the upper terrace on the right.
  • The terrace has a view of the large pond which Vermillion backs onto.
  • The views are far better than the photos suggest!
  • Back inside, Vermillion has two racks of merchandising shelves, selling coffee...
  • ... and all sorts of other things.
  • Down to businses, and the large, uncluttered counter.
  • There's plenty of coffee stcked up on a shelf behind the counter...
  • ... and a handy English menu!
  • I had a shot of the house-blend, roasted by Weekenders Coffee, served in a classic cup.
  • It was as gorgeous as it looked in this photo: one of the best of my trip.
  • I paired this with a slice of the toasted fruit and nut bread...
  • ... and followed it up with a flat white, again with the house-blend.
  • Finally, an awesome chocolate brownie. The perfect end to my last day in Kyoto!
Photo Carousel by v4.6

Recommended by Caffeine Magazine, both Commodities Connoisseur and Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato also sang Vermillion’s praises, although they went to the espresso bar by the station. They also, independently, encouraged me to head to this south-eastern corner of Kyoto to hike, at sunset, up Mount Inariyama, its famous path lined with 10,000 Vermillion gates.

So it was that I found myself searching for Vermillion Café towards the end of a hot spring day. Tucked away down one of a maze of narrow lanes near the northern entrance to the path up Mount Inariyama, I’d have struggled to find it without Google maps. However, it was worth the effort, plus coming this way avoids the crowds at massive shrine just to the south, which stands at the entrance to the main path.

Of all the coffee shops that I visited on my trip to Japan, Vermillion Café has the best setting by far. At first, however, it doesn’t seem like much, a small, triangular seating area with a handful of stools in a bend in the lane, Vermillion’s large, glass front off to the right. Stepping inside, it’s a lovely, long, wide space with high ceilings, glass doors/windows front and back, plus a long counter on the left-hand side. There’s not much seating, just a pair of chairs immediately on the left, between counter and window, plus two long communal tables on the right, the further one seating maybe 10. A huge mirror on the right-hand wall merely enhances the sense of space.

Keep going and things get even better. At the back, two pairs of double doors, thrown open in the good weather, lead to a wooden terrace overlooking a large, shady, tree-lined pond. There are two three/four-person tables, one to the left of the left-hand door and a similar one on the right. In the middle of the terrace is a central, round, three-person table, while off to left and right are single, tiny one-person tables, one each side. Finally there’s a step down, where three more tables, one with a rocking chair, have the best vantage point of all at the front of the terrace overlooking the water.

Honestly, I thought I’d died and gone to coffee heaven when I arrived. Sitting out on the terrace, it was delightfully cool and shady after a day of walking in the hot sun. And then there was the coffee. And what coffee it was!

Vermillion’s espresso is roasted by Weekenders Coffee, a bespoke blend of 60% Brazil, 20% Ethiopia, 20% Guatemala beans. I tried it on its own and it was gorgeous. A commendably short double shot, it was rich, smooth and a little fruity, but extremely well-balanced, easily one of the best I had all trip.

I followed this with a flat white which I had in preference to a pour-over since it’s something I rarely saw on menus in Japan. This was rich and creamy, the coffee going really well with the milk. It’s unusual to find a coffee which excels on its own and in milk, although if I had to pick one, I’d say have an espresso. This was outstanding, while the flat white was merely excellent.

All the sandwiches had gone by the time I arrived, so I had the toasted fruit and nut bread instead. Although a little fruity for my tastes, I enjoyed it, but was left wanting more, so I followed it with an absolutely awesome brownie. Rich, chocolatey, gooey and slightly warm, it was pretty much the perfect brownie and a fine way to end my last day in Kyoto.

Monday 10:00 – 17:30 Roaster Weekenders (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 10:00 – 17:30 Seating Tables, Comfy Chairs
Wednesday 10:00 – 17:30 Food Sandwiches, Cake
Thursday 10:00 – 17:30 Service Order at Counter
Friday 10:00 – 17:30 Cards Cash Only
Saturday 09:00 – 17:30 Wifi No
Sunday 09:00 – 17:30 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 28th April 2017, 1st September 2019

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