Hi love, here’s the long awaited recap from my short visit to Kyoto two weeks ago. Due to the lack of time, I only managed to squeeze two days of Kyoto into the itinerary (which was basically only one and a half day sightseeing), but it’s was fun nonetheless. I stayed right in the heart of Gion (just like last year) and only roamed around two other areas: the neighbouring Higashiyama Ward and Fushimi Inari. So yea pretty much repeating the same places. Talking about convenience.

However, rather than posting photos that are pretty similar to my previous Kyoto journals (do you really really want to see the same shrines and bamboo??), this time I will focus more on the amazing coffee places and matcha dessert houses that I got the chance to try in the neighborhoods.

Ok…. honestly one of the shrines is still here. But it’s so red, massive and gorgeous I just can’t.

Higashiyama Ward

One of the city’s best preserved historic districts. The traditional old Kyoto between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine invokes a feeling of the old capital city through the narrow lanes and wooden buildings. The streets are lined by small merchant shops, cafes and restaurants that –though have been renovated through the years– still retain their traditional design and continue to serve customers today.

When a place has consistently good reviews, you just have to try it. We finally tried the winner espresso that everyone’s raving about (my dear Alodita brought me here. I read her blog about the love she has for this place and determined to drag my coffee buddy along with me.)

%Arabica Kyoto is indeed a must visit while in Kyoto. Well tucked in the traditional alleys of Higashiyama ward but so beautiful it’s impossible to walk past. We got here pretty early in morning and was lucky that there’s no line at all.

The vibe inside is relaxed, the interior is no-nonsense aesthetics, very clean with plenty of natural light. I especially love the giant communal table in the middle for all the customers to sit around together.

My coffee buddy urged me to take the espresso, so i ended up taking both the espresso and latte. And — mind you — it was perfect, full body, dark and bold. Caffein kicked in and so strong but oh so smooth. While the latte provided me with a silky and fluid transition. The caffeine’s still there, with the bitter aroma and the perfect ratio of fresh milk. I really can see why people are lining up for this place.

%Arabica Kyoto Higashiyama
87-5 Hoshino-cho Higashiyama-ku Kyoto

Gion

Didn’t have luck with geisha/maiko spotting this time (I had better luck on my previous trips), but this time i happily indulged in lots and lots of matcha based desserts. There are also numerous good coffee shops around this area but I only managed to try around five of them (one is really good, some others are okay and the last one is superbly cute, you’ll read about it soon)

The internet says that this place is the Holy Grail of Matcha Dessert (If it’s on the internet it must be true) and it’s also mentioned that there is normally a long and winding queues on the entrance. Determined to beat the line, we arrived at Tsujiri Honten twenty minutes before the opening time aaaand… there are only a group of eight people before us (how long have they been there??)

After the first spoonful of my beautiful matcha parfait, I can understand why people can be so devoted to this place. The parfait is so smooth, delicious and brimming with green tea goodness: pound cake, jelly, mochi, adzuki paste and topped with Matcha whipped cream. I honestly didn’t think I could finish it by myself, but I did. You might think it’s too much matcha in one glass but trust me, it’s out of this world!

I’m glad that we came pretty early because when we finished, the line was getting even longer with over thirty people lining up from the stairs and extending to the streets outside, and it was only 10:40 am!

If you love matcha, I totally recommend Tsujiri for the best matcha parfait you’ll ever taste in your life. Don’t be put off by the long line or the high prices. Tsujiri’s desserts are well worth the effort and expense. The bad news tho, is that after you taste their desserts, you will not be able to find anything that comes close.

Saryo Tsujiri Honten

573-3 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku,Kyoto
東山区四条通祇園町南側573-3 2F・3F Kyoto, 京都府

Okay, on this place we had our share of waiting in line for more than half an hour. I admit the plastic food sample outside the store was the one and only reason that tempted me to get inside (and the best thing about Japanese food sample is, they look exactly like the original dishes so I never feel I got tricked). Honke Nishio Yatsuhashi only has a Japanese store sign (本家西尾八ツ橋 八条口店), but it’s right next to abovementioned Tsujiri, and both got matcha parfait samples on their glass display and a long queue in the front. You won’t miss it.

Since I still couldn’t move on from the Matcha parfait I ordered in Tsujiri in the morning, I decided to go with the Sakura parfait this time. I was promptly blown away. It was beautiful, elaborate, super delicious and was well worth the wait.

本家西尾八ツ橋 八条口店 (Honke Nishio Yatsuhashi Gion)
576 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu
東山区四条通祇園町南側576 2F・3F Kyoto, 京都府

Here comes the best coffee secret of all: Hidden on the second floor of an old building, and only accessible from a very steep set of stairs, there is an obscure little café that serves wonderful coffee inside probably the most cozy space in Kyoto.

Elephant Factory Coffee is a tight space with only a few tables, reclaimed wooden furnitures and dim lighting. I took a seat in the corner by the window. There’s a stack old art and poetry books next to the table which I quietly browsed, accompanied by soft Jazz music playing in the background. I honestly can sit here forever. This place is like a calm oasis right in the middle of busy Kawaramachi district.

This is strictly non-espresso-base coffee shop. Having said that, you will be amazed with the traditional equipment they have. They boiled their water to provide perfect brewing. I tried their v60 filter and while the tone of the coffee is not as strong as other arabica, I can say that I still can feel the sweet-berry-fruitiness with lower acidity.

I’ve had too much coffee that day so I also ordered the “Trois Fruits Noir”, a fragrant blend of black tea with blended blueberries, blackberries and cassis. They have several other tea selection on the menu.

Elephant Factory Coffee
309-4 Bizenjimacho, Nakagyo-ku 2F HK Bldg, Kyoto

Our other (more moderate-taste) cups of coffee around Gion were from Drip & Drop Coffee Supply in Uraderacho (didn’t take photos because it was a quick coffee before heading to Elephant, and this was also the coffee I had to get my friend for his relentless complaints about waiting for an hour for my beautiful latte art which I would explain below), Doutor Coffee, and last but not least Elk. Now, Elk is very interesting. Let’s write about Elk.

A slight warning, do not expect too much from the coffee, you’re here obviously for that adorable foam. Elk is actually a pancake cafe, but we were too full to have any so only opted for iced and hot latte instead. It was also the longest time we had to wait for our coffee, but look at that 3d latte art! I tried to justify the taste and the one hour wait to my friend but he wasn’t convinced. I’d say, come here with girlfriends who would appreciate the ‘grammable drink.

Elk
595-5 Uraderacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

Fushimi-Inari Shrine

I haven’t been back here for two years and it’s still as beautiful as ever. The crowd is also as big as ever. Which is no surprise since Fushimi Inari is quite simply, bar none, the most impressive and memorable sight in the whole Kyoto.

I woke up too late and had to join thousand of people inside the sequence of red gates, it was exactly like queueing for a concert in the regular seat. However there was one moment when a group of older ladies were busy taking photos right behind me and blocked the entire pathway (Who would say no to instagram moms right?) so I finally got my empty torii shot!

The climb to the top and the return down is super strenuous and require good physical condition, strong knees, and good footwear. Definitely a good workout though and most importantly, the higher you get, the less crowd it’ll be.

Last but not least: The coffee. I love how relevant this coffee spot’s name is to the neighborhood it’s located in. Vermillion is indeed the brilliant color of the thousand torii gates in Fushimi Inari, and it’s also one of the best third wave coffee shop in Kyoto. Don’t be put off by it’s proximity to such touristy area though, because this friendly café will serve you amazing espresso and beautifully crafted latte using coffee beans that have been locally roasted in Kyoto. The Japanese owner spent 18 years living in Australia before returning back to open his own coffee shop.

The coffee is light and refreshing, just what we needed to catch some breath after climbing many steps of the temple. It is light but don’t be fooled. You still have that dry-bright enliven taste of coffee, and with iced in addition, the americano is perfect for such a hot sunny day.

Vermillion Coffee
85 Ommaecho Fukakusa Inari, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto

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