Kafe Kosen: Quite the Unique (and Delicious) Coffee Experience in Kyoto
Unassuming, but Delicious Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) Kyoto, Japan -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
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Unassuming, but Delicious
Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船)
Kyoto, Japan

In the 12 years I've been blogging, I don't think I've ever gone two weeks without posting something new, but today's post is the first in almost a month, the first this year. The break wasn't intentional... I just haven't felt like writing, I guess. But today I visited a cafe with coffee so unique — I'd never had anything like it — that it deserved to roust me from my blogging lethargy.

I've been feeling lethargic about cycling as well, not having done many rides since autumn. For months I'd been planning to ride an hour south to visit Eric Findlay (seen on this ride-report blog post a couple of years ago), but I finally met him today when he came up to Kyoto and suggested we try this cafe.

Simple Menu -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/30 sec, f/1.8, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Simple Menu

Let me say up front that I'm not a coffee aficionado, nor a coffee snob. I do drink my coffee black (no cream nor sugar, thank you), and while I appreciate a good cup of coffee, I never find coffee to be really good. Time and again I'm introduced to a place that has amazing coffee, and invariably find that it's fine, but nothing special.

So it was with surprised that this place gave me a coffee experience like I'd never had.

Yellow to Red: Light to Deep choose your level -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/20 sec, f/1.8, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Yellow to Red: Light to Deep
choose your level

I ordered red, their deepest roast, which surprised me a bit because I don't like espresso at all. It's just hot bitterness that is gone in two sips. But the thought of light coffee just isn't appealing, so I gave their deep roast a try.

It came in a little glass a bit larger than a Dixie Cup, which made me think espresso, but wow, it was anything but.

Unappealing Presentation -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/15 sec, f/1.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Unappealing Presentation

It was indeed deeply rich, but without the slightest hint of bitterness. At all. It was almost sweet. It must be what God had in mind when He created coffee.

It also wasn't scalding hot... it was just pleasantly warm. In this regard it felt odd, since gingerly sipping from a piping hot cup is part of The Coffee Experience. But the taste was so very nice.

Normally I get a big cup of coffee, because I like volume. I like the act of drinking. So the tiny portion was part of my initial pre-taste dismay, but I found myself content to just sip slowly as I chatted with Eric. It was quite nice.

Along with your glass of coffee you get a small pot of weak watered-down coffee (perhaps the second pour from the grounds used to make your glass) that you can use to temper your coffee it proves to be too strong.

Trying the Weak Coffee -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/15 sec, f/1.8, ISO 80 — map & image datanearby photos
Trying the Weak Coffee

I wanted no part of that watering-down stuff — the coffee as they brought it was perfect as is — but after I was done I tried the weak coffee as its own drink.

It tasted, unsurprisingly, like watered down coffee, all the worse on the heels of the fantastically-rich cup that preceded it. Next time I'll try the watered-down stuff first, then the real coffee.

The place is invisible from the road, so you have to know to look for it. (Google Map; Cafe home page)

Entrance the white door in the center -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/120 sec, f/1.8, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Entrance
the white door in the center
What Passes for a Sign -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/120 sec, f/1.8, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
What Passes for a Sign
Still Doesn't Look Like a Cafe -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/60 sec, f/1.8, ISO 32 — map & image datanearby photos
Still Doesn't Look Like a Cafe

It's one tenant in a very old building that had originally, 100+ years ago I'd guess, been a hospital.

Doesn't Look Promising -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/15 sec, f/1.8, ISO 50 — map & image datanearby photos
Doesn't Look Promising
Found It on the second floor -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/30 sec, f/1.8, ISO 25 — map & image datanearby photos
Found It
on the second floor
Not Too Exciting -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/30 sec, f/1.8, ISO 40 — map & image datanearby photos
Not Too Exciting

My first impression of the place was that it was really hard to find, and even when I was there I wasn't sure that I was there, because there's no sign on the actual entrance. There's the sign at the street door, and one on the wall at the base of the stairs, but nothing on the door that actually lets you into the cafe. Odd.

My impression went down further as I walked in, because they clearly allowed smoking. Luckily for me, the lady that had been smoking all morning (as apparent by the full ashtray in front of her) was just leaving, and they had a good enough air system that I was able to actually enjoy my time there.

Such a Grind -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/15 sec, f/1.8, ISO 80 — map & image datanearby photos
Such a Grind
Raw Coffee Beans waiting their turn to roast -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/15 sec, f/1.8, ISO 64 — map & image datanearby photos
Raw Coffee Beans
waiting their turn to roast
The Roaster -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/15 sec, f/1.8, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
The Roaster
Hot -- Kafe Kosen (KAFE工船) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2018 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 at an effective 28mm — 1/15 sec, f/1.8, ISO 64 — map & image datanearby photos
Hot

I'll have to go back another time with a good camera, and document how they actually make it. I gathered that it's all done by hand (pouring hot water through the grounds using some kind of filter), but not knowing how good it would be, I hadn't paid that much attention.


All 9 comments so far, oldest first...

Understand the pause in posting; for myself as well, there came a point where I just ran out of things to write about.

Oh, I have hundreds of things I want to write about; just not enough energy to actually do it. (Even a short post usually takes hours for me to prepare, and I’m just feeling drained lately.) —Jeffrey

— comment by ex-Japan Hand on January 22nd, 2018 at 11:59pm JST (8 months, 29 days ago) comment permalink

I would be interested to hear what their process is, if you learn more.

I recall when I was in Japan a couple of years ago (visiting from the UK), I was very impressed to find a coffee shop in the basaement of Kyoto station that sold Aeropress coffee even at 0700 on a Sunday morning.

It is always nice to find places such as this that take their chosen specialism really seriously.

— comment by Paul Kelly on January 23rd, 2018 at 4:11am JST (8 months, 29 days ago) comment permalink

As always, I greatly enjoy reading your blog. I can tell it’s winter and obviously getting to be a grind! Ho-ho. So different to the pictures from the last temple you visited. Keep it coming.

— comment by Ash on January 23rd, 2018 at 9:44am JST (8 months, 29 days ago) comment permalink

12 years of posts! Looks like I have some catching up to do. Funny how “blogging” on a personal web site seems so old school now.

I’m not a big coffee fan myself even though I drink it daily. Had a really good cup last year at Ninth Street Expresso in Chelsea Market last year though. I felt a little like you do here. It was surprisingly good and we went back for another cup the next day.

— comment by mdchachi on January 23rd, 2018 at 12:47pm JST (8 months, 29 days ago) comment permalink

Jeffrey,

you should talk to Mike :

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2015/02/open-mike-upping-your-game-coffee-and-desktop-music.html

… and keep the blog going ….. 🙂

Kind regards,
Guy

— comment by Guy on January 24th, 2018 at 6:24am JST (8 months, 28 days ago) comment permalink

Nice change from your previous blogs. Really enjoyed the pictures and your reflections on the coffee and roasting. This would be someplace I would like to visit someday. I like coffee, especially strongly brewed coffee that isn’t bitter. Thanks for sharing.

— comment by Wei Chong on January 26th, 2018 at 2:32pm JST (8 months, 26 days ago) comment permalink

I’d love to go there and definitely will. Maybe we can have a coffee there together one day!

— comment by Arthur Brigham on January 26th, 2018 at 9:39pm JST (8 months, 25 days ago) comment permalink

An old favorite…

— comment by Ted T on February 27th, 2018 at 7:16am JST (7 months, 22 days ago) comment permalink

Happy 12th Birthday blog-san! Funny that I was just reading an article in my wife’s Textbook & Authors Textbook Association newsletter on overcoming writer’s block and ‘writing yourself out of it’. Looks like your post on a new, different, inspirational topic is a good start 😉 She’s in the last few weeks of writing an introductory psychology textbook / online program that’s been an extra full time job for the last 3+ years with her best friend & co-author for it’s 16 chapters and 1,000,000+ words. Their reference section is 55 pages long alone. I’m commiserating with your doldrums! Hope your new bike will help get you back out on the road and your creative Qi (Ki over there?) back flowing again.

— comment by Geoff Hudson on April 12th, 2018 at 10:28am JST (6 months, 9 days ago) comment permalink
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