Cafe Sorte

A coffee experience in a traditional Japanese kura

By Sherilyn Siy   Jul 3, 2015 - 3 min read

Traditional Japaneses storehouses called kura dot the countryside and sometimes, older neighborhoods in the city. They are tall, straight structures about two stories high and often have white plastered walls. Their most striking features are the great, heavy, beveled windows and doors. I often wondered what the inside looked like until I had the "good fortune" of coming across a kura converted into a cozy cafe -- Cafe Sorte. 

"Sorte" is Portugese for "fortune" and boa sorte means "good fortune."

The kura that houses Cafe Sorte is over a hundred years old. Prior to being a cafe, this kura was used for the production of sake (with the thick clay walls providing ideal insulation against temperature fluctuations). Stepping inside, one is transported back in time, with the intriguing collection of antiques on display. Old sewing machines serve as tables. A vintage folding camera and accordion are prominently featured on top of a piano. The faucet and sink for washing hands look straight out of the 1950s. 

Proprietor and barista Sayoko Kanno envisions Cafe Sorte to be a space where good relationships are fostered. As a teenager, she watched her mom run a cafe in Tokyo and grew to love drinking coffee. When she went to the US and visited Starbucks for the first time, she was drawn to the espresso machine and longed to operate it. She worked at a coffee shop when she lived in Canada for ten years. Her passion for coffee led her to stay at a Hawaiian Kona coffee farm for three months, learning every aspect of cultivating and roasting the best coffee. Coming back to Japan, she saw the fulfillment of her dream when she opened Cafe Sorte in 2012.

Cafe Sorte's specialty is french press coffee -- one of the most classic methods of brewing coffee -- and you can choose beans from Brazil, Kenya, Guatamala, Papua New Guinea, and Colombia (and in the fall, Hawaii), all of which are freshly roasted at the start of each week. Dutch Coffee, which is prepared 15 hours beforehand and served cold, is also another house specialty. While coffee is the star of the show, Cafe Sorte has sumptuous scones, brownies and in the summer, pumpkin pudding, to enjoy along with your drink. 

For serious coffee lovers, Cafe Sorte is a coffee destination. Enjoy the best coffee from someone who believes that "Selling coffee is telling a story." 

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Sherilyn Siy

Sherilyn Siy @sherilyn.siy

For Sherilyn Siy, Asia is home. Born in Hong Kong, Sherilyn spent time in the Philippines, China, and now lives in Japan. She speaks English, Filipino, Chinese (or putonghua), and Hokkien, her family's local dialect. Running is one of her favorite ways to explore Japan. She proudly finished the 2015 Tokyo Marathon -- her first ever full marathon -- in 4 hours and 37 minutes. She was absolutely psyched when she got selected again to run the new Tokyo Marathon route in 2018. She hopes to complete other races in Japan. 

Join the discussion

Mandy Bartok 3 years ago
I love the movement to reclaim some of these beautiful old buildings and repurpose them as cafes, restaurants and shops. Kyushu has some lovely "kura cafes" as well.
Sherilyn Siy Author 3 years ago
Totally agree Mandy. Plus kuras are some of the most structurally sound buildings considering how they have survived fires and earthquakes.