Coffee made the best use of mild sacred water.
Text : Keiko Nakamura / Photo : Takashi Oka
Going through Nishi Romon gate at Yasaka-jinja Shrine and stepping into far inside, and there is ‘Gion no Goshinsui (Sacred water)’ on the east side of the main shrine. If you compare to ‘Beauty water’ at Utsukushigozensha right next to it, the former well looks very quiet, however, this is the spring water called ‘Chikara-mizu’ that people have believed in getting energy from. Yasaka-jinja Shrine used to be larger than it is now and ‘Gion Cattleya coffee shop’ located the north side of Shijo-dori was inside of the shrine before. Only 200m away from Goshinsui (Sacred water), so that we could say that their underground water is almost in the same water vein.
The building that the coffee shop Cattleya is in used to be Ochaya (teahouse) since the late Edo era, which was about 170 years ago. They told us that they found a fine well already when they moved here. Right now, they draw water from there through a pipe and use it after passing a water examination. The well is no longer used anymore, but it stays quietly there as their symbol. At Kanko-sai, a festival celebrating the return of a shin tai (Gods) to its main shrine, there is a traditional custom that all the young men stopped by at Cattleya to drink ‘Chikara-mizu’ and return to Yasaka-jinja Shrine carrying a portable shrine by one last mighty effort.
Inside the coffee shop, I see a table remade of an old sewing machine stand, colorful stained glasses, and white lily flower in a vase stands out in a dim room. I sat down on an antique chair and had a glass of water. Very mild taste. It is from underground water in Kyoto. The owner, Mr. Toshiki Takahashi told me, “Some customers often asked me ‘Did you put sugar in this water?’ On the way the customers going outside, they told me, ‘A glass of water, it was amazing.’ I’m pretty much happy to hear that but wonder if they like my coffee or not”.
Inside of the counter, water in a big pot was boiling. He said, “I have so many customers ordering coffee, so that I always boil water”. He poured hot water finely and continuously onto grounded coffee beans using a paper drip system. He said, “Water quality is very mild taste, so it is actually unreliable. In order to make it better, I add extra coffee beans and extract coffee slowly”. It is weird to hear that he said, “this mild taste water is unreliable”. He extracts coffee according to its well-calculated beans quantity and an extraction speed created through his trial and error.
Coffee was served in a cup and saucer called ‘hole in one’ which is a discontinued coffee cup brand from BODUM. This blended coffee (500 yen) is easy to drink by medium roast and its their speciality. Through mild taste water, bitterness, sourness, rich flavor and aroma will come to you slowly. The best balance I’ve ever had. Moreover, I enjoyed its coffee taste without any disturbs because there is no unfavorable taste. Deeply roasted ’Inishie (old) coffee’ (600 yen) is bitter but at the same time it is mild. This is how this famous water can make happen. It doesn’t mean it’s old, it is just an image they want from Showa retro feeling. There are quite a few people order this coffee because of its naming.
It was not that crowded inside at noon. One of the strong points they succeeded in and old Japanese coffee shop style that people can smoke cigarette at any places here. In this dim room, I saw steam from cups and smoke from cigarettes. One of the customers who wore a suit, about 50 year-old business man started talking to me and said, “I visit here twice a week to refresh myself. A quality of water is amazing and therefore coffee is good as well. About 20 years ago, my wife worked here as a waitress. After many years, I now come here often like my wife did”. Business men, regular customers from neighborhood, and tourists from overseas... After they get their energy back, they disappear into a crowd in the city. Coffee at Cattleya made of sacred water must give a great strength to everyone as ‘Chikara-mizu’.
ADDRESS : 284 Gion-machi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City (MAP)
PHONE : +81(0)75-708-8670
HOURS : 10:00 a.m. ~ 10:00 p.m. (Sunday : ~ 8:00 p.m.)
CLOSED : irregular holiday