% Arabica is an international coffee shop/roaster chain which, like Omotesando Koffee, has its origins in Japan. In the case of % Arabica, it started in Kyoto, rather than Omotesandō, before spreading around the world, although so far I’ve only visited its locations in Kyoto and Shanghai. Today’s Coffee Spot, in Arashiyama, on Kyoto’s northwestern edge, has a stunning location on the edge of the Katsura River as it gushes out from a narrow valley through the mountains.
It’s an amazing location, both in which to enjoy your coffee and for the baristas, who share the spectacular views with their customers. It is, however, a tiny spot, little more than a counter in a single room, with limited seating, most of which is outside. There’s the usual concise espresso menu, with the option of the house-blend or a single-origin, an Ethiopian Yirgacheffee Adado, but the usual filter options are missing.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
In true Coffee Spot style, I’m slowly visiting all three branches in % Arabica’s hometown in reverse order. This started on my first trip to Japan in 2017, when I visited % Arabica’s third location, its coffee bar in the Fujii Daimaru department store. My current trip, which saw me return to Kyoto for the first time in 2½ years, provided the opportunity to visit % Arabica’s second location, in Arashiyama, on the city’s northwest outskirts. Perhaps in another 2½ years, I’ll visit the original in Higashiyama. Who knows?
Regardless, it will have to go a long way to top Arashiyama, which is easily my favourite of all the % Arabicas I’ve visited. Occupying a tiny corner building, it faces onto the main road running alongside the north bank of the river. A stylish, glass-sided cube, with a flat, projecting roof, which provides some shade/shelter to the outside seating, there’s very little space, inside or out.
The sliding glass door is on the right-hand side, accessed via three broad, concrete steps. If you want to sit outside, a similarly broad, concrete shelf acts as a bench, starting to the left of the door before running down the side and all the way along the front. Inside, the front of % Arabica, which is all glass, is occupied by the counter, with the custom Slayer espresso machine behind the counter in the window. This has the dual benefits of allowing the baristas to enjoy the view while making your coffee, while allowing you to watch your espresso as it extracts.
At the back of the store is a display of green beans, showing their origins around the world, along with an old air roaster. If you want to sit inside, the broad windowsill opposite the door which, while probably not designed as a seat, can be pressed into service as one. Alternatively, there’s a small, open-air seating area at the front, to the right of the counter, which you can hire for ¥1,000 per half hour (roughly the cost of coffee for two). It has a pair of wooden benches, facing each other across a central table, and is sheltered by the overhanging roof.
Unsurprisingly, given its size, % Arabica is takeaway cups only, so don’t forget to bring your own. I came prepared, having a short latte, made with the house-blend, in my Therma Cup. The lovely, rich espresso went perfectly with milk, which held the latte art all the way to the bottom of the cup.
It was gorgeous, surpassed only by the view across the raging river to the wooded mountainside on the far bank. One caveat though: I was there early on a Saturday morning, when I had the place pretty much to myself. The baristas tell me it can be horrendously busy later in the day. You have been warned!
|3-47 SAGATENRYUJI SUSUKINOBABACHO • UKYO WARD • KYOTO • 616-8385 • JAPAN|
|https://arabica.coffee||+81 (0) 75-748-0057|
|Monday||08:00 – 18:00||Roaster||% Arabica (espresso only)|
|Tuesday||08:00 – 18:00||Seating||Window Bench; Bench (outside)|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 18:00||Food||N/A|
|Thursday||08:00 – 18:00||Service||Counter|
|Friday||08:00 – 18:00||Payment||Cards + Cash|
|Saturday||08:00 – 18:00||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 18:00||Power||No|
|Chain||International||Visits||31st August 2019|
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