All About Japan

Kyoto's 6 Best Third-Wave Coffee Shops

| Cafés , Kyoto

Tokyo may seem like the coffee capital of Japan, but Kyoto certainly gives it a run for its money. Kyoto’s third-wave coffee shops are popping up left and right on streets that were once filled with geisha and maiko.

6. Café Bibliotic Hello!

Hiding just behind a banana tree, surrounded by residential buildings sits Café Bibliotic Hello! Dubbed “Hello” by locals, this café features a large collection of books with spacious indoor and terrace seating. Journey up to the second floor and you might find an art exhibit on display. This café stays open until midnight, so if you’re looking for a late-night latte, no place could be better.

5. Efish Café

Designed and established by Shin Nishibori, who went on to win design awards with Apple, Efish Café serves Kyotoites coffee in style. On one side of the café is the popular and scenic Kamo River, while on the other side café-goers can take in the lush green view of Takase creek. The menu is pretty expansive and includes creative dishes and drinks, such as mango beer, and tuna, avocado and cottage cheese sandwiches.

4. Sarasa Nishijin

Once home to a large sento (public bath house), the Murasakino-Higashifujinomori neighborhood now houses a bustling café complete with parfaits, omelet rice and café lattes. At Sarasa Nijin, remnants of the old 1930s sento are still extant in the majolica-style tiles that decorate the walls. For those who are a little hesitant about entering a public bath, Sarasa Ninjin may be the place to sit back and take in the sento vibe.

3. Vermillion

Named after the brilliantly colored torii gates of the neighboring Fushimi Inari Shrine, Vermillion takes pride in using coffee beans that have been locally roasted by Weekenders Coffee in Kyoto. Although the café may seem to be an independent one, it’s actually a branch of Yakuriki, a tea house located in Fushimi Inari Shrine itself! If you’re heading to the shrine to pray for good health, be sure to stop by Vermillion and grab a cup on your way up.

2. Café Phalam

When it comes to coffee, Café Phalam knows what’s what. The shop’s representatives have participated as tasters in the Cup of Excellence, wherein farmers compete to sell the highest grade of coffee. Furthermore, unlike most cafés in Japan, Café Phalam, in an effort to reduce its own waste, does not dispense oshibori (moist towelettes), and it even gives a ¥100 discount if you bring your own cup!

1. Weekenders Coffee

No coffee lover’s trip to Kyoto would be complete without a visit to Weekenders Coffee. As mentioned above, they roast their own coffee beans as well as those for other cafés. Although it’s mainly a place where you can buy beans and coffee equipment, they do have a small standing bar where you can leisurely sip your java. If you have any questions you would like to ask the staff, be sure to come after 3 p.m. as before that hour the roasting machine is going and can get quite noisy.

If you feel like you haven’t gotten your coffee fix yet, Hitori Kyoto has an impressive collection of café reviews as well as useful vocabulary you may encounter if you're handed a Japanese menu.