Saiin Roasting Factory: Tasty, Quirk and easy on the pocket

by J.J. O'Donoghue

Contributing Writer

The exactitude that barista and coffee roaster Yosuke Yamashita employs in making each cup of coffee extends to the whole operation at his bijou cafe in the western reaches of Kyoto. Opened earlier this summer, the coffee shop is about a 10-minute walk from Saiin Station, plonked right in the middle of suburbia. It’s definitely a highlight in this nondescript neighborhood.

As the name implies, the cafe is also a roasting factory. When the roasters are whirring, it gets so aromatic that Yamashita has to keep flitting between making coffee, managing the roasters and sliding the door open and closed to let air in and expel the plumes of scented smoke.

Besides the coffee, what I like most about SRF, as Yamashita likes to call his establishment, are the prices. I’ll always make time for Japan’s kissaten cafes — they’ve got character and history — but a cup of not-always-great coffee costs at least ¥400. SRF, on the other hand, charges ¥250 for the house blend and ¥350 for a speciality coffee. For a second cup it’s ¥100 and ¥200, respectively. Take that, Starbucks.

Yamashita usually has a choice of coffees from his speciality range, and they change often. I started with his Java roast, a deep velvety blend, and followed it with a Guatemalan bean, a darker, more bitter coffee. Yamashita serves roasted nuts with the coffee, a quirky choice, but then again this is a quirky little establishment, right down to the mini-fire escape installation that adorns the wall behind the counter.

Coffee from ¥250; English and Japanese menu; some English spoken