Higashide Coffee

The sign which hangs outside Higashide Coffee in Kanazawa.This time last week I was in Kanazawa on the north coast of Honshu, part of my short trip around Japan’s main island, where I unexpectedly found some excellent coffee. I say unexpectedly, since I wasn’t really looking, but I really struck it lucky with my hotel, with great coffee shops of varying styles and character all within a few minutes’ walk.

Higashide Coffee is a coffee shop/roastery in the mould of a traditional Japanese kissaten, such as Café de L’Ambre or Chatei Hatou, although the layout reminded me of a traditional American diner (Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, for example). All the coffee’s roasted on-site using what looks to me, at least, to be a very old Fuji Royal roaster, which sits in the window. In a move that I’ve not seen before, all the green beans are hand sorted before roasting, which is an impressive level of dedication!

There are around 20 origins to choose from, with roasts ranging from fairly light to very dark. They’re all available as pour-over, made to order behind the counter, while there’s also a limited espresso menu, plus a small selection of cakes. Be warned though, Higashide allows customers to smoke and, like many Japanese coffee shops, it’s cash only.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Higashide Coffee in Kanazawa, on the ground floor of this interesting building.
  • The view head on. Note the chimney on the right. The reason for this will become clear.
  • Nice sign, by the way.
  • Let's go in, shall we? But wait! What's that in the window on the right?
  • With apologies for the reflections, it's a lovely old Fuji Royal roaster (hence the chimney)!
  • Inside, and there's this little library off to the right...
  • ... which gives access to roaster in the window.
  • All the green beans are handsorted before roasting by the way.
  • Meanwhile, to the left there's a cash-desk where you pay when you leave.
  • The majority of the seating is on the right. Following the library, there's...
  • ... a solitary six-person table...
  • ... followed by three of these four-people tables along a bench under the windows.
  • You can also sit at one of eight chairs at the counter on the left. It was very busy...
  • ... and I couldn't take photos with customers in them, hence the limited range of pictures.
  • I sat at the counter and this was my view. Look at all that coffee!
  • There's more off to the right.
  • The other view from my seat at the counter. The espresso machine to the right...
  • ... looks very like a Rancilio Silvia, although no-one ordered espresso while I was there!
  • Note the ashtray. Smoking is allowed, although no-one was smoking while I was there.
  • When a coffee is ordered, a jar is brought dowm, the coffee is weighed, then ground...
  • ... and then it's down to work with the barista making the coffee...
  • ... at a row of ceramic pour-over cones at the front of the counter.
  • And here's my coffee, in a lovely, floral-patterned cup.
  • Interesting reflections!
  • This was facing me the whole time I was sat at the counter. It was very effective...
  • ... turning into see one, buy one in my case.
  • This is how it's made, by the way: iced pour-over, plus crushed ice, in a cocktail shaker...
  • ... poured over ice cream, plus chocolate sauce and cubes of coffee jelly.
  • Then add more chocolate sauce, since you can't have too much chocolate.
  • Almost done.
  • The biscotti is the finishing touch.
  • It was, I can tell you, as good as it looked!
  • You also get a little ticket with your order...
  • ... which has the bill on the other side. Just take it to the counter to pay when you're done!
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Higashide Coffee was suggested by my friend and local guide, Christopher, although he’s not visited himself.  Located in the heart of Kanazawa, between the Omicho Market and the castle, it was, more by luck than judgement, just around the corner from my hotel!

It occupies the ground floor of a long, thin two-storey building, standing alone on a street corner, one short block from the rear of Omicho Market. The short side faces onto the larger of the two streets, where you’ll find a single door recessed between two bay windows. What immediately caught my eye, in the bay window to the right, was the old Fuji Royal roaster. A glass door at the back separates it from the main body of the store, turning the window into a self-contained roastery.

The layout’s very simple, the counter occupying the entire left -hand side, while the right-hand side is lined with tables. Immediately to the left of the door is a cashier’s desk, where you pay on the way out. This is followed by a small gap before the counter proper, which has a row of eight chairs, easily the best seats in the house in my opinion.

On the right, opposite the cashier’s desk, is a small alcove providing access to the roastery and containing a low bookshelf, packed with volumes which you read while enjoying your coffee. Next comes a large, six-person communal table, end-on to wall, followed by three four-person tables along a padded bench beneath the windows.

The staff will indicate a seat for you, although if you’re on your own, you’re likely to be shown to the counter, where you’re free to choose your own seat. If you can, get one of the first two, since this puts you directly by the pour-over section, where a row of Melitta-style ridge-bottomed filters are in near constant use. Further down are two large kettles, constantly on the boil, followed by an espresso machine, a Rancilio Silvia, or something very similar (although all the while I was there, no-one ordered espresso).

In contrast to Café de L’Ambre and Chatei Hatou, both of which are basement-like spaces, Higashide is bright and airy, with windows all down the right-hand side. It also has pretty efficient air-conditioning, since on the humid day I visited, the air was remarkably cool and refreshing, despite two continuously-boiling kettles.

You’ll get a glass of water and a menu, plus a basket for your belongings so that they don’t have to touch the floor. There are about 20 different origins to choose from, listed in order of roast, from dark (top) to light (bottom). I selected a medium roast El Salvador and watched as it was prepared in front of me.

The cones are laid out in a row, each with an unrinsed filter paper in place. The beans are weighed and ground, the ground coffee going straight into filter paper. Next, a pouring kettle is filled from one of the two kettles on the range, then the pouring begins, with a first pour to let the coffee bloom and multiple main pours thereafter. The coffee’s then dispensed from the carafe into a cup for serving.

I was expecting the cup to be handed across the counter, but instead one of the staff comes around with a tray, presented you with your coffee, along with a ticket to take to the counter when it’s time to pay. Initially I found my coffee a little thin, but it matured and developed as it cooled, with fruity flavours and a certain sweetness coming to the fore.

I also indulged in a mocha ice cream (well, that’s my translation of it), one of two dessert options prominently displayed on the counter. Consisting of chocolate sauce, with cubes of coffee jelly and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s topped off with an iced pour-over (prepared in a cocktail shaker) and more chocolate sauce. It looks like an ice cream sundae and the final touch is a biscotti, which takes the place of a wafer. You can eat it with a spoon (like I did) or let the coffee melt the ice cream and drink it like a milkshake. All in all, pretty awesome!

http://higashidecoffee.amsstudio.jp +81 (0) 76-232-3399
Monday 08:00 – 19:00 Roaster Higashide (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 08:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Counter
Wednesday 08:00 – 19:00 Food Cake
Thursday 08:00 – 19:00 Service Table
Friday 08:00 – 19:00 Cards Cash Only
Saturday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi No
Sunday CLOSED Power No
Chain No Visits 28th August 2019

For more about my trip to Japan in the summer of 2019, including details of where else I visited in Kanazawa, please see Brian’s Travel Spot.

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3 thoughts on “Higashide Coffee

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