% Arabica: A Lesson Learned

As I was planning my trip to Japan, one of my coworkers visited the country, and upon her return, she had several suggestions of places I should visit while I was abroad. One of those places was the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove which is just northwest of Kyoto. She spoke so highly of it that I immediately added it to my Must-Visit list.

Since the grove is a little out of the way and I was expecting to have a full day of visiting not just the grove but also Kinkaku-ji Temple (gorgeous) and Fushimi Inari Taisha (such an adventure), I hoped to grab my morning coffee somewhere in Arashiyama after the hour-long train ride. Luckily, one of the highly-recommended coffee shops in the Kyoto area is located not too far away from the grove, so the moment I stepped off the busy train, I made a bee-line to % Arabica.

Or at least I attempted to.

To be honest, despite living in the southern part of the United States, where heat advisories are regular occurrences as well as having a name that means the sun in Persian, I am no fan of the summer or the heat. In fact, cuddling up in a warm blanket with a book and a hot cup of coffee while snow falls outside is my idea of a perfect day.

So as I slowly dragged myself down the uncovered sidewalks of Arashiyama, baking in the blazing sunlight, the temperature quickly rising to sweat-inducing levels, my mood deflated from excited to annoyed, and all I wanted to do was sit down in a shaded coffee shop with my morning caffeine fix and a bottle of water.

But as I arrived at % Arabica, it became clear that I wasn’t going to get that at all.

Why? Well, first of all, there is no seating offered in the shop unless you are willing to pay a thousand yen per hour to rent out a small four-six person table that is sectioned off from the rest of the shop.

It has a great view of the Katsura River, but I questioned whether it was really worth the money for just little ole me. $10 to have a space all to myself? With my less than pleasant mood, it might have been a good idea, but I wasn’t quite convinced, especially when considering the second reason of why a quiet, morning coffee was not going to happen.

And what was that reason?

Well, the place was packed! The main store area is barely bigger than my home office, which is somewhere around 200 square feet, and it was filled to the brim with people. (Fun fact: if you google % Arabica Arashiyama, the “See Outside” photo is just a long line of people wrapped around the store.) I’ve honestly never been inside a coffee shop that was so hectic, busy, and just plain crazy.

Talk about an ambience killer.

And finally, the third element that kept me from realizing my quiet, morning coffee dream?

The shop doesn’t even sell drip coffee.

WHAT?!?!?!

Yeah, I thought it was weird too, but espresso drinks only at this location (along with lemonade and sparkling water). I have seen shops offer Americanos as a kind of drip coffee alternative before, but in my opinion, it just doesn’t have the same strength of flavor as a drip coffee. I ended up opting for the latte instead as a result.

So after I ordered and made it safely back outside, I walked across the street to the low stone wall that separated the Katsura River from the road and sat down, fidgeting with my umbrella to get some shade cover from the sun.

Once I was settled, I found that my spot on the wall provided me with the perfect view of the coffee shop, so while I sipped on my latte, I watched as the shop’s patrons flittered in and out of the store, sat and chatted with friends on a bench built into the store’s front wall, and took selfies with the iconic % Arabica paper cups. Despite the craziness inside the store, outside, the building felt somewhat calm and picturesque, the perfect place for connecting with others, catching a quick break, or getting that perfect Instagram shot.

So even though I was still very hot and sweating buckets through my clothes, I became reluctant to leave my perch on the wall. There was just something about this place, even though filled with people, that felt comfortable and welcoming instead of hectic and oppressive. I even had to admit that my latte, despite not being exactly what I wanted that morning, was absolutely delicious and the perfect drink to sip on as I people-watched.

And before I knew it, the heat became nothing more than a mild concern, and I was happily taking a hundred photos myself.

So the lesson behind all of this?

I’m a miserable person before coffee in the morning. Note to self: Don’t go outside without a jolt of java in my system.

Until next time,

The one and the only Pookachino

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