by Devon Martin
In a quiet little corner of Ginza, down a nondescript laneway sits a perfect little coffee shop that has been roasting beans since 1948. Are you a coffee lover? Coffee obsessed? This. is. your. place.
Alerted to this gem by some Japanese friends, the Japlanning team hit up this perfect café on a recent trip to Tokyo.
The café opens at noon and serves you guessed it, coffee. There is nothing else on the menu. But what it lacks in options for food or other beverages, it more than makes up for preparation and choice of beans. Every guest must at least order 1 cup of coffee, but even for the non-coffee obsessed there’s something on the menu for everyone. The majority of the coffee is prepared with the nel drip method; using a copper kettle, and being strained through a filter which looks like an old sock. The pour is slow and hypnotic to watch.
Stepping into the café is like stepping back in time. It is dark with a lot of wood accents and a really 1970's bar/lounge feel. Café de L'ambre is small, seating maybe 15 people. The majority is counter seating with a few tables for two. They provide English language menus and we noticed several of the staff were bi-lingual, speaking not only Japanese, but Chinese, German, and English. Staff will do their best to pair you with an individual who speaks your language if they are working at the café that day.
For our first visit, we chose the signature Queen Amber (Blanc et Noir) a cold, sweetened coffee topped with a milk float and served in a classic champagne glass that will set you back 820¥ or 1000¥ for a double. This was perfect on a warm Tokyo afternoon and we already began planning our next visit.
This coffee is expensive and if you want to try more than one be prepared to spend. The cheapest pour will cost around 700¥, with more expensive roasts reaching nearly 1200¥. For many of the roasts you can choose a single or double. Several of the selections also have alcohol added.
One coffee aficionado on the Japlanning team loved the coffee so much (it was me) they visited 5 times in this one trip, choosing a new selection each time. One barista was particularity kind, and would discuss coffee flavours and styles to narrow down that visits selection.
With our trip in Japan coming to a close, I bought some of the beans recommended by the owner to take home. He suggested a blend of 5 of his favourite types of beans. Packaged in vacuum-sealed 100 gram bags for 870¥, they recommend using them within a month. Prepared in the pour over method at home, the beans held up well, even if the atmosphere was lacking in the US!
What sets Café de L’ambre apart from other coffee shops?
Their beans are roasted on site. The aroma is enchanting.
They have hand crafted and designed all of their materials – from the copper kettles to the coffee cups, everything was designed by the owner to maximize the coffee experience. They own the patent for the kettle and you can purchase one too, if you want to try and recreate the experience at home. Pots range from small to large and costs from 29200¥ to 39150¥.
Expertise! This café has been in operation since 1948. The baristas really know their stuff and are happy to make recommendations!
Be forewarned, like many places in Japan this café is not smoke free. If you are sensitive to smoke, we recommend coming when it’s less crowded or not at all. I was able to visit the café one rainy evening and was the only guest, so there are times when it is not as popular.
Opening times and location
Café de L’ambre opens at noon every day and closes at 10 PM Monday through Saturday and at 7 PM on Sundays.
Being in Ginza, Café de L’ambre is located close two three major stations making it easy to get to from all areas of Tokyo.
- Take the Ginza Line to Shimbashi Station. It’s an approximately 5 minute walk from the station.
- Take the Marunouchi line to Ginza station. It’s an approximately 6 minute walk from the station.
- Take the Oedo Line to Shiodome station. It’s an approximately 10 minute walk from the station.