% Arabica, Arashiyama

The latte art in my Therma Cup at % Arabica, Arashiyama.% 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.

  • Walking along the north bank of the Katsura River in Kyoto, and what's this ahead?
  • It's the Arashiyama branch of % Arabica, in this cute little building on the corner.
  • You can, if you want, sit outside on the broad, concrete bench.
  • Here's the view without the people, with the custom Slayer Espresso machine...
  • ... clearly visible through the window.
  • You enter around to the right, where a broad set of concrete steps leads to the door.
  • Once you've got your coffee, you can sit outside on this concrete bench, which starts...
  • ... to the left of the door and then runs all the way along the front...
  • ... sheltered, in part, by the overhanging roof.
  • Let's go in, shall we? The barista is clearly visible through the window.
  • The usual % Arabica sign marks the threshold.
  • Inside, the counter is to your left, occupying the front of % Arabica.
  • On the far side, opposite the door, is a deeply-recessed window...
  • ... while the back of the room holds an old air-roaster and a display case...
  • ... showing various green beans from around the world.
  • The % Arabica map of the world adorns the back wall above the roaster.
  • The view from the far side of % Arabica. If you want to sit inside...
  • ... you can use the broad windowsill on the right...
  • ... or there's a private room at the front.
  • This, however, is in such demand, that you have to hire it at a cost of  ¥1,000/30 minutes.
  • It does, however, offer some excellent views, open to the front and to the side...
  • ... so you can see across the river to the wooded mountainside...
  • ... as well as watching the water pouring over the weir in the river itself.
  • A view of the percentage room from the outside.
  • The views here are really wonderful. This is the river, which was raging when I was there...
  • ... the result of several days of summer rain.
  • This is the view that the baristas have from behind the espresso machine, looking left...
  • ... and right.
  • Meanwhile, as a customer, this is your view when you come to order. Not bad.
  • The counter's right-hand side has some familiar features, including example cup sizes...
  • ... as well as % Arabica merchandising. There are branded coffee canisters...
  • ... and branded cups...
  • ... while hanging at the back are some branded rucksacks.
  • The menu is wonderfully concise, offering a blend and single-origin...
  • ... which used to rotate monthly, but is currently this Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Adado.
  • So, to business. It's takeaway cups only, so I'd brought my own...
  • ... in this case my Therma Cup.
  • I love watching espresso extract and this is the ideal place for it.
  • Now for the latte art...
  • ... and we're done.
  • My latte art, which, impressively...
  • ... lasted all the way to the bottom of the cup, which is where I'll leave you.
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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!

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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4 thoughts on “% Arabica, Arashiyama

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