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Cafe Phalam is a cafe in Kyoto specialized in coffees near Nijo Station. I’m not a big fan of coffee, but Maki told me that they are very particular about their coffee and food, that really drew my attention.
The wood furniture makes the cafe really warm and cozy. There is a shelf full of books and magazines for customers to read freely. It’s a place where friends can hangout and individuals can spend a couple of hours reading over a great cup of coffee. It’s like the specialty coffee houses I used to see back in Canada, where all they serve was coffee and sweets, nothing else. However this kind of coffee scene is still not that common in Japan, most cafes serve savoury foods and meals besides the drinks.
What stood out in the cafe was the expresso machine behind the counter. Maki and I were quite full when we got there, so we only ordered two black bean lattes. It was a seasonal drink, so you might not find it now if you go visit. However they have a variety of coffees and lattes to suit your tastebuds. I love black beans, I love how the Japanese syrup black beans are so big, full, flawless and shiny. The latte was just the right amount of sweetness with black bean flavor and aroma.
After 6pm on Friday, people started to come in. The owner Yoza-san put down her busy work and spared some time for us for an interview.
Q: Question by Sandra & Maki
A: Answer by Yoza
Q: What is the concept of Cafe Phalam?
A: My original intention was to serve coffees only, but in the first two years customers kept asking, “Don't you have set lunch? Omelette rice? spaghetti?” I realised how difficult it was to sustain the business by serving only coffees. So over the 7 years, we have added a lot more to the menu, like hamburgers and set meals. But we still focus on serving great coffees to the customers.
Sandra: Yes, I totally understand what you mean. I was quite shocked when I first arrived in Japan 7 years ago, the year when your cafe was opened, that cafes in Japan did not mean specialty coffee houses but instead, it meant casual restaurants that served a variety of food. I think it’s because in Japan, people are not used to taking out coffees. There’s no such culture as eating or drinking on the street.
A: Yes, that’s very true. We put up the sign saying “take-out coffee is available.” but still, people prefer to sit down for drinks.
Q: Where are your coffee beans from?
A: We got them from a coffee provider company called Cafe Time (カフェタイム). The owner of the company, Yuko, actually goes to where the beans are grown, talks to the farmers and producers before finalising the business. I went there with her once and was really amazed that she went to great lengths to ensure the quality of the coffee beans. She is an international examiner for ACE (Cup of Excellence) competition. She knows how good coffees should taste like. Every year, she travels to where the coffee beans are grown and discusses with the local producers about how to improve the quality of the beans.
Q: From what countries are the beans from?
A: From around the world, like South America, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda, etc. Cafe Time buys the beans abroad and roasts them here in Kameoka, a town in Kyoto prefecture.
Q: Is your lunch menu vegan?
A: Yes, it is, but we also have regular beef hamburgers. I want to serve food that’s made of natural ingredients. I don’t eat food that I am not sure of where it's from. I had been sick for a while, so I wanted to boost my immune system by eating natural food. That’s why I’m very particular about what to put in my mouth. I care about how the foods are being grown and processed. I also started to practice yoga since then. I’ve changed my lifestyle, got pregnant and given birth to two kids. I can feel that my body is so much healthier than before.
Q: What’s your main message to the customers?
A: We need to align what we eat with the nature in order to keep our body healthy. I hope to get this message across by managing the cafe.
Yoza-san’s beautiful baby daughter was there when we visited. The cafe is very mama-friendly with a spacious washroom and a large bench for changing diapers! I was very touched by how Yoza-san’s intention to serve great coffees and natural food to the public. “We do not serve food that we don't know where it's from”, that’s a strong message I got from Cafe Phalam. In our busy modern life, it's so easy to just go to a nearby supermarket and get whatever that's cheap, making that conscious food choices takes so much commitment. Feel free to check out Cafe Phalam yourself when you have a couple of hours to spare.
If you're interested for a visit, Feel free to check out their website here
Eat Dream Kyoto is brought to you by two close friends, Maki & Sandra. Aiming to introduce healthy eateries in Kyoto and to reveal the dreams of those behind the scene. Through this project, they wish to help the readers to appreciate the food being served, to feel more connected to the space, and to inspire others to live the life of their dreams.
In the spring of the year when I turned 32, I was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a cancer of a malignant tumor. That was the turning point of my life. In order to find my own healthy lifestyle, I quit my job at a company which I worked for 3 years and a half. Now I live in Kyoto and take the time to learn about health and healthy diet. I took a world trip to 19 countries in my late 20s and I’ve spent 5 years in Canada afterwards. I still enjoy traveling to somewhere about once a year. Pescetarian, except for special occasions. (laugh)
I’m Chinese Canadian, moved to Japan in 2009, now working as a yoga teacher in Kyoto and Osaka. I yearn to see the world and to seek a purposeful life. Traveling is one of my passions and so far have been to about 30 countries around the world, but I believe that the inner journey is just as important. Yoga, meditation, and reading help me to deepen that path.