Following on from our trip to Sentido, we arrived the next day at Cafe Bibliotic Hello, after the increasingly familiar walk around the block trying to find the cafe that’s hidden in plain sight. Knowing in advance there was no filter coffee, we came for the food, the espresso and most importantly the atmosphere.
Cafe Bibliotic Hello is as much a hangout as it is a cafe or coffee shop, featuring a massive selection of books and magazines, as well as a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. There’s even a cute little bakery fixed on to the side. Spotting the huge red La Marzocco FB80 at the end of the service counter I ordered a double espresso to go with the food we were sharing.
Arriving with dark aromas of toast, caramel and hints of sour grapes, I sipped away at flavours of sour grapefruits before it opened up into red grapes and dark cherries. This was a good atypical espresso, no doubt great with milk and it went well with the low lit dark wood interior of the cafe. It was easy to see why someone might come and spend an afternoon here, it was almost the perfect place to come and get some work done.
Kyoto Chukyo-ku, Nijo willow Baba east Nyuru Seimei-cho 650
At the base of Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto’s infamous mountain shrine of luminous orange gates, Vermillion provides a necessary stop for the bump of caffeine required to summit the almost 2km of steps required to make it to the top. Arriving in the early evening with the intention of catching the sunset while on the climb, we popped into Vermillion to pick up an espresso before closing time.
Designed to be a tourist friendly spot, where you get can get insider info on the local attractions, as well as great espresso, Vermillion was popular with the locals and the backpack toting masses headed up the mountain. Speaking to the Aussie behind the counter I ordered an espresso to go. Pulled with some expertise by the local Japanese barista who moved with casual style around the espresso machine, before handing me my shot.
The espresso had a sweet floral aroma and while it opened a little bitter it became a very balanced and creamy set of white floral flavours. By the time I’d realised quite how unique this espresso was, we were too far away to go back and ask what they were serving on house espresso. Still it was all the encouragement I needed to make it up the mountain.
85 Fukakusa Inarionmaecho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Waking up the next morning after a wonderful sunset, we made our first stop of the morning at the cafe we’d kind of been saving till later. It was our last day in Kyoto and % Arabica was very close to our accomodation and so it made sense to save the best till last (well second to last). Hauling our bags across the road, we entered a stylish and serene residential area full of beautiful woodwork and elegant independent shops selling some very pricy looking kimonos. With clean lines and a clean white and lightly toned wood interior we came upon the self branded Slayer Espresso machine that doubled as entrance sign, here we were, % Arabica.
Coming across a pretty extensive menu of origins on offer, which with an unusual looking roaster lined the surrounding walls, we attempted to order the Geisha, which was advertised on little cards set about the tables, but they had unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly sold out. Undeterred, part of me had been more keen to try the Natural Ethiopian Kochere anyway, having wanted something bold and fruity to start the day off.
Brewed using an unusual combination of sack cloth and chemex, I was intrigued to see what effect this would have on the taste of the coffee and especially the body.
The coffee was poured out into two lovely sort of mini chemex, which encouraged the aroma off the coffee. Smelling like fruity and funky berries with a hint of smokiness the coffee tasted of a mix of black and red berries with a dark honey and treacle sweetness and a touch of honey toasted wheat on the finish. The mouthfeel started out as a slighty juicy and syrupy texture, but as it cooled it became a lot more tea like, the former likely owing to the roast and the latter to the brewing method.
% Arabica was a beautiful and stylish cafe with a particular dedication to coffee that was clear and apparent. The perfect space for contemplation over some of the best roasted and brewed coffees you’re likely to find is a combination that’s hard to beat.
87 Hoshinochō, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu
Having arrived at the train station to catch our train back to Tokyo, we arrived with enough spare time to enjoy a coffee at Kyoto’s own Ogawa Coffee. Having tried some of their coffee at Togetsu Cafe, this time there was a much larger selection of Ogawa roasted coffees to choose from.
Having missed out on the Panamanian at % Arabica, I was curious to see what I expected would be a slightly darker roast profile here at Ogawa, would go like with a Panamanian coffee. Ordering the Panamanian La Corleida brewed on a filter cone.
The coffee arrived with aromas of forest, honeysuckle, buttercups and a light candied orange peel, it was dark, but complex and elegant. To taste it was dark without being bitter, exhibiting flavours of lemon and caramel with some background orange and watermelon. Noticeably balanced and clean, it seemed somewhat indicative of the Japanese style and preference in coffee, refined, mellow and high quality.
Finishing the last of the coffee, we grabbed our bags and said goodbye to the beauty and spirit that was Kyoto before boarding our train back to Tokyo for the second part of our capital adventure.
600-8216 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Shimogyo Ward, Higashishiokojicho