cafe de Corazón is a small café on 小川通Ogawa Street a little north of 一条通Ichijo Street, near the intersection of the two streets. Its simple blue exterior is subtle enough to blend in a subdued Kyoto neighborhood but I’m not surprised if the understated sophisticated air of the café would draw many a passersby to stop and check it out, maybe even go in. I first came across the café in early June 2013 when Maki and I met for lunch at THE GRAVY; I had arrived earlier, so I was checking out the neighborhood when it caught my eye. There was a large variety of coffee and although there didn’t seem to be much food to have with the coffee, I put it on my list of cafes to visit soon (I would have suggested going that day if Maki was a coffee drinker). However, the 今出川Imadegawa area isn’t a place I go often, so it took me almost a year and four months before I went this past weekend. I had wanted to try THE GRAVY’s steak forever and thought that I’d finally try cafe de Corazón, too, but since it was still lunch hours (the steak isn’t available then) when I arrived in the area (and I had walked from 二条駅Nijo Station, too!), I decided to have coffee first.
There’s nothing as charming to me as a cute little café with a few bikes parked outside.☺
the display of goods at the front as well as reading material for those who needed some
the view of the cafe from the back
the cafe’s own stylishly retro roaster at the front (the cafe’s name is even on it)
the many choices of coffee that the café has to offer, all labeled by color according to roast
There is only one table for four besides the counter seating where it’s only natural that a hitori-sama sits…after being greeted by the staff, I chose a seat in the middle of the counter seating to get a better view of the entire place.
Most of the cafes that specialize in coffee that I’ve experienced leave it up to the customer to choose a coffee unless the customer asks for more details or suggestions. At cafe de Corazón the gentlemanly owner himself brings the menu and gives a brief explanation before allowing the customer to decide; he is also very accommodating when it comes to questions about coffee (his explanation to a customer that I overheard was so informational)….once the order is ready, he serves it himself by coming out from behind the counter when he could very well serve from behind it.
Since I was hot from my walk up to the area, I naturally ordered one of the iced coffees…how could one not be attracted by the name ハニーゴールドコーヒーhoney gold coffee, ￥600, anyway☺? After putting in my order, I asked if I could take pictures to the other sweet-looking female staff who seemed to be his wife; it was okay, yay!☺
I decided to have some of the small チョコレートフィナンシェchocolate financier, ￥220, displayed at the front as well…there were also bagels as well as other baked sweets on display, available for taking home or having them at the café. The female staff was making some bread when I arrived…apparently the owner also graduated from a school where he studied bread-making, too.
Not only was the presentation tasteful, the coffee was just perfect, subtly sweet and so easy to drink that I tried to relish the flavor for as long as possible. The financier was EXACTLY the way I like it, a little hard on the outside and moist and chewy on the inside…there’s a plain version (just imagine a beautiful baked-golden color) as well at the same price. All this I told the owner when he asked me how I liked my coffee.
I was so impressed about how courteous the owner was; I really felt like royalty the way I was treated. At one point when he could pause between work, he asked me where I was from…I told him I was originally from the States but now lived in Kameoka at which he seemed surprised, maybe that I had come from Kameoka or maybe because I didn’t seem American to him, who knows, haha! There was a constant flow of customers the time I was there, so I didn’t get a chance to talk much with the staff. Before I left after paying, I asked for a shop card at which the female staff (the owner was busy with coffee, otherwise he would have rang me up) also presented a postcard with information about “MORNING COFFEE CLUB”, a meeting for coffee and talk every Saturday from 7:00-9:00am…”It’s probably a bit far for you to come so early but please feel free to come if you’re interested,” she said with a shy smile. Great coffee at only ￥200? I’ll have to make it out sometime.
It was definitely one of the most relaxed and pleasant experiences I’ve had at a café and I told this to another huku cafe regular, Hasegawa-san, when we were both at huku cafe by chance…she herself has gone before, about two years ago, and agreed with me about how nice the café is, especially because her boss at her former work used to be a regular at the well-renown café Bach in Tokyo where the owner, Kobe-born 川口勝Masaru Kawaguchi, worked before opening his own café in Kyoto and had recommended cafe de Corazón to her. The coffee roaster is probably manufactured through Bach, I noticed a seal that made me conclude so.
The shop used to be a fish shop owned by acquaintances of the owner’s wife’s family, that’s how they came to open up shop; before renovating it and starting the cafe, they had pretty much used the shop in its original form just roasting coffee and selling beans. After renovation the owner became in charge of making coffee and anything else dealing with coffee while his wife made all the sweets that one can have with the coffee.
I’m so craving their coffee (and service and atmosphere and goodies) now…I think I’ll try to go again this weekend.☺
Update: Over two weeks later, I took Mason to Corazón after. When we arrived we were seated at a two-seater table in the back (the four-seater was now two two-seaters).
When the middle seats of the counter opened, we moved there at my request…this way I could observe the action while conversing with Mason.
Once again the owner kindly went over the menu with us before leaving us to decide…after choosing my drink, I got up to checked out the baked goodies: besides a big brown-sugar and red-bean-paste muffin, there was only ヴァニレキプファルンvanille Kipferln, ￥230, left, so I gave one package of two to the owner to be served to me with my coffee, ペルーエルパルゴマウンテンPeru El Pargo Mountain, the recommended coffee by the owner to have with the cookies.
I loved the strong, deep taste of my coffee (which came in a charming cup with saucer) and it sure went well with my buttery vanilla and soft cookies coated in sugar.
The owner’s wife (yes, the female staff last time was his wife) baked up some financier while we were there, so I ordered some to have with the latter half of my coffee. These financier are even more heavenly when they’re straight out of the oven…I wish they were bigger.
I was satisfied once again with my Corazón experience…can’t wait to go back again and try something new, I’ve only started!
Update: Over a week later, Hasegawa-san and I stopped in after she took me to 逃現郷Togenkyo since we were close by. It wasn’t as crowded that day as usual, so we got to chat a bit with the owners when there were no other customers around. I guess you could consider us jouren since they remembered me by now and of course they were familiar with Hasegawa-san already;
This time I got エチオピアイルガチェフェEthiopia Yirgacheffe coffee, ￥500, and チーズケーキcheesecake, ￥370.
Ethiopia Yirgacheffe has more of a punch than the Peru El Pargo Mountain that I had last time but the rich, creamy flavor of the cheesecake toned the flavor down to make it even easier to drink. This cheesecake was baked but had the texture of eating a block of cream cheese; it was so rich that I finished my coffee and cheesecake at about the same time…definitely want to have it again!
Update: After finally succeeding in having dinner at THE GRAVY, I stopped in at Corazón less than an hour before they closed to end my day with their delicious coffee. There was a young female customer at the counter before another customer, an older man, and I entered at the same time; we were followed by another male customer and that was it for the rest of the night.
Without looking at the menu, I ordered a ホットカフェオレhot café au lait, ￥550. Although I was close to bursting from dinner, I was still able to fit in this smooth and delicious drink; since I ended up being the last to leave, my chat with Master was just the complement for my coffee…I was impressed that he knew my name because even if it was mentioned anywhere, he would have been very perceptive to have caught it. His wife who had left sometime before close (I didn’t even notice!) brought their small daughter by; she was adorable resembling both her parents and I told her she received the best of both her parents (「ママとパパのいいとこどりやなMama to papa no ii-toko-dori ya na!」) to which she smiled shyly. I showed Master my blog post on the café for which he thanked me but really, it’s my pleasure considering all the fantastic experiences I’ve had here☺. I’m going to have to attend MORNING COFFEE CLUB sometime like he suggested.
Update: A week later, Fumie-san agreed to go with me to Corazón, so we met at the 小川御池Ogawa Oike area and walked up Ogawa Street to the café. When we arrived, there were three Chinese customers sitting in the middle of the counter seating; Fumie-san and I took the two chairs closest to the entrance. Fumie-san had a look at the menu while I went on to order café au lait and ガトーショコラgâteau au chocolat, ￥380, that I saw announced on their Facebook page. The café au lait was as smooth and delicious as I remembered it being last week; this might be my usual during the winter. The gâteau au chocolat was both perfect in appearance and taste, rich and moist than most, and although I’m not a fan of fresh cream, their cream which they whip up with each order was just the right amount of sweetness and complemented the cake well.
Fumie-san ended up ordering ケニアKenya AA but had gâteau au chocolat as well; she kept commenting on how delicious the coffee and cake was…I was so glad to see that she was pleased with her Corazón experience.
The time we were there until the last 10-20 minutes before we left, the place was filled with a steady flow of customers and the owner took a moment to chat with each customer when he could afford it. At one point while I was immersed in conversation with Fumie-san, I heard my name; it was Master and he asked me to help in assisting a young female customer who had just arrived and couldn’t speak Japanese to which, of course, I obliged. After we got her coffee through, I took her to the front to explain the sweets to her in the case she wanted to have some with the coffee; to my delight, she chose the chocolate financier, the very first baked sweet that I had at the café and one of the reasons I come back.
We introduced ourselves to each other: Via was visiting from Taiwan and she had passed by Corazón on her way to 京都御所Kyoto Imperial Palace and decided to go in because she was in Kyoto for coffee shops as well as the sights; I told her she had made the right decision…she even ended up buying beans! Master also told her about カフェ・ヴェルディCaffè Verdi for single-origin coffee. Right before she left, we all took a picture together, including Muromatsu-san, the designer for the café, who had dropped by for coffee (maybe another reason?), by taking advantage of my smartphone’s self-timer function. I think it goes without saying that it was an enjoyable visit for everyone.
I took an ミックスベリーとクリームチーズのマフィンichigo to kuriimu chiizu no mafin (mixed berries & cream-cheese muffin), ￥280, to go. Flatter but wider than most muffins, it was a substantial size (it covered the expanse of my whole hand when I held it), so the price was too good to be true for me…when I had it later at home, I found it was yummy as well (how can berries and cream cheese together be bad?) and with a moist but firm texture. Sorry for not having a picture but for an idea about what a muffin here looks like, here is the チョコレートマフィン～ミックスベリー入りchokorehto mafin ~mikkusu berii-iri) chocolate & mixed-berry muffin (same price) that I had when I went alone about a week later.
Update: Half a week later, I was back at Corazón on my day off to have coffee again…this time I got café au lait and cheesecake. I ended up staying over two hours. Like all the other times I’ve been, there was a steady flow, mostly of regulars, throughout the time I was there. Not only did Master keep up a nice banter with each customer, anytime he noticed a regular just passing by, he would make the effort to say hello at the door if he wasn’t busy with an order…I was starting to see why there are so many regulars. The last 10-15 minutes that I was there, I got to know a little more about the couple: the two of them met at the baking school and Master’s wife worked at bakeries after finishing the school. I asked them if they liked coffee from other coffee shops but besides caffè Verdi (whose owner also has roots at café Bach), they don’t go anywhere, especially because their days off are often spent working for the café. Although it’s a shame that they get little time for themselves, as a customer, I’m glad that the café is open so frequently to give me a chance when I feel like indulging in good coffee. They’ll be open normally even for the holidays although they’ll be closing an hour or so earlier…I’ll have to make it there as much as I can.☺
Update: Over three weeks later, I took Lars to Corazón because it was one of the few privately-owned cafes that would be open during the New Year holiday. The place was pretty full when we arrived but the two-seater against the wall was available next to a very kind elderly couple. Lars ordered the Peru El Pargo Mountain with a mixed-berry and cream-cheese muffin that I recommended while I had ケニアKenya AA and the アーモンドシューがーalmond sugar, ￥190, that I had when I came with Ryo over a week before…the almond-sugar pastry had been better than I had imagined, being a mound of bits of their homemade croissants, almond paste, almond slices and sugar; soft but crispy in the ideal places.; although I’m not crazy about croissants, I think I might try one someday. After we had placed orders for our coffee and sweets, Katalin arrived. I was not surprised that she was on friendly terms with Master and his wife who were surprised to find that the friend we were waiting on was Katalin although I found out later that she had come only once in November, a month after I had started coming. I felt bad that the elderly couple cut their visit short so that we could sit together but that’s how kind the customers of Corazón are.
Before we knew it, we were the only customers and I requested changing our seats to the counter. Lars ended up leaving not too long after he finished his coffee and it was just me and Katalin. We talked a bit with Master and his wife but we left soon to make it to Cafe Phalam before they closed.
Other items on the menu that I’ve had since then:
* ココアのマフィン～いちごクリームチーズ入り～chocolate muffin filled with strawberry cream cheese, ￥280
Address: 〒602-0943 京都市上京区小川通一条上る革堂町Kyoto-shi. Kamigyo-ku. Ogawa-dori, Ichijo-agaru. Kodo-cho 593-15
Telephone/FAX number: 075-366-3136
Access: 地下鉄烏丸線今出川駅から610m from Subway Karasuma Line Imadegawa Station
Business hours: 10:30am-6:30pm (last order at 6:00)
Cafe holiday: Sunday