By Tom Roseveare
Arabica is a stylish, artisanal coffee shop found in Kyoto's downtown Higashiyama area.
Just metres from Yasaka Pagoda, it's arguably the perfect location for the Instagram-hungry crowds round the corner snapping away at Ninenzaka, walking over from Kiyomizudera temple in search of third wave coffee.
The coffee here is first-class, with a latte here tasting no less than amazing. This is thanks to co-founder and ex-Head Barista/Latte Art World Champion, Junichi Yamaguchi – who now heads up rival Here Kyoto's canele/coffee combo near Nijo castle.
The menu is deceptively simple: single origin or blend, hot or iced varieties of expresso-based beverages.
Arabica Kyoto's interior is sleek and minimally designed – the perfect addition to this quaint neighborhood. White walls give way to exposed woodwork and backlighting. Over two dozen varieties of coffee beans are on display (they can roast to order too).
The ubiquitous '%' logo is stamped everywhere. You also get a sense of pride in the process – machinery and coffee artifacts lend an inviting, rustic warmth to the atmosphere, though the limited space means you won't be hanging around for too long (this isn't Starbucks).
About Arabica Kyoto
The %Arabica brand is the brainchild of Kenneth Shoji, who launched the Kyoto-born brand back in September 2014.
Forgoing domestic expansion to keep the Japanese roots firmly in Kyoto, Arabica's foray into overseas markets (reaching 11 countries and counting) has made a strong impression. Droves of foreign tourists now make the journey to the home of Arabica at the original Kyoto store.
In a hurry? Two other Kyoto stores exist, including Arashiyama and Fujii Daimaru in the Kawaramachi area:
- The Arashiyama shop is smaller but has snagged a great location, within earshot of the Togetsukyo Bridge and Ooi River, and on one of the paths used to reach Arashiyama's acclaimed bamboo forest. Not to mention around the corner from Tenryū-ji of UNESCO fame.
- The Fujii Daimaru shop is the most accessible – centrally located in a department store setting. It's seen as a potential answer to the conundrum of overtourism. With the Higashiyama and Arashiyama stores so popular, Arabica was in danger of crowding out the locals from a simple cup of coffee – a righteous concern for a brand firmly rooted to its Kyoto image.
Closest station is Gion-Shijo, if you can make the 15 minute walk. Buses from Kyoto Station can get you here just as fast – take the 206 Ko bus bound for Kita Oji Bus Terminal.
Creative Director at Japan Travel, based in Tokyo.