Travel site Rurubu has an article on an unusual coffee shop in Kyoto that serves coffee, sweet treats... and sake.
Just a minute's walk from the north-eastern corner of Kyoto's Daitokuji temple, Kissa Koan (喫茶狐菴, Fox's Retreat Café, abbreviated to Kiss a Co) opened on 9 September 2017 to offer coffee, traditional wagashi sweets and sake.
Owner Maho* laughingly describes it as a tea house nothing like a tea house, something conjured up by a fox spirit, and recommends enjoying drinking together while bewitching others as you are yourself bewitched (traditionally done by foxes in Japanese folklore). The writer comments on the levels of different-word-same-pronunciation, musing that a fox spirit would be delighted by the elegant wordplay.
The building used to be an unremarkable Heiwa period home, now transformed into a stylish café with an elegant storefront, the perfect place to enjoy paired coffee and wagashi, or sake and wagashi. Opening the glass sliding door reveals a long maple wood counter, made for standing at, but there are also some seats for those who prefer to sit. The counter has a line of white stucco down the middle, made to look like a river during its conversion from the home of an elderly gentleman to something resembling a tea room.
Kissa Koan blends the spirit of the traditional tea ceremony and old-style tea culture with modern coffee culture. Their menu is based around traditional seasonal wagashi normally served in tea rooms that require a reservation (so very Kyoto, comments the writer) served with coffee from local roasters Circus Coffee or a range of sake from Kyoto brewers including Kinoshita. As they're close to the front gates of Daitokuji, they also serve matcha, grown without pesticides and sold by Uji tea shop Kōroan.
The writer had a sakura mochi with a cup of Kinoshita's Tamagawa junmai ginjo Iwai sake with a cherry blossom floating in it, an unpasteurised, undiluted and unfiltered muroka nama genshu made from Kyoto's own Iwai variety of sake-specific rice.
Customers can ask for any combination they like, while the owner listens and observes. The sweetness and mouthfeel of the wagashi is used to decide what to pair it with, and the poetic quality of the conversation puts the icing on the cake.
Enjoying the conversation with the owner, the sweets and the sake, the writer daydreamed that she became a butterfly... or maybe a butterfly dreamed it was sitting at a counter with some sake and a sakura mochi.
Well, that has added to the long list of places I want to go to next time I'm in Kyoto...
*The reading of the owner's name isn't given in the article, it could be Mahide, Maho or Mahoro (or even something else). I went for Maho because mahō is the reading of the characters for "magic".
- Original article (Japanese, Rurubu, 20 April 2018) Click through for photos of the cafe and traditional Japanese wagashi sweets.
- Kiss a Coffee on Instagram
- Circus Coffee (Japanese)
- Kinoshita brewery, makers of Tamagawa (Japanese)
- Kinoshita brewery, makers of Tamagawa (English)
- Kōroan (Japanese)
- Kōroan (English)