Digressions

Specialty Coffee in Ginza: Cafe De L’ambre

Written by Jayvee Fernandez

Wow it’s been ages since I wrote about my sojourns. Today it’s Tokyo. As a lover of all things specialty coffee, it comes as a surprise to me that in my latest trip abroad, coffee was last in my priorities. One week in Japan (spent for work) allowed me for relative freedom to explore Tokyo after attending various seminars, tours and workshops. Call it the initial shock therapy of a new country (it was my first trip to Japan) as the reason for not being able to focus on caffeine.

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I stayed at the Hotel Villa Fontaine in Shiodome, about 3 blocks away from Ginza. Not wanting to hassle myself with taking the train to explore the coffee scene in other locations, I took out my phone and did a quick search in Google for “coffee shops near Ginza” and was gladly surprised to find one near the Don.K by Ginza. I was further intrigued to find out that the coffee shop was rather famous — Cafe De L’ambre is run by a centenarian who set up shop in 1948.

A little bell on the door tinkled in greeting as I walked in. Being a gaijin (foreigner), I was gladly relieved that the baristas spoke good English and had an English menu. Cafe De L’ambre’s ambiance is akin to that of an antique shop. It smells like one too – old, but welcoming, with leather bar seats that spun on fixed metal poles. Old wood and leather. And the strong aroma of coffee on the Moka pot. I wasn’t alive in 1948, but boy this place has aged well. It’s quite popular online too.

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I ordered a Queen Amber — which was basically cold black coffee in a champagne glass served with a thin sweet milk froth on top. It seemed to be their specialty, as the barista pointed to the wall with a whole newspaper spread of how the shop was known for this specialty drink. “Please take a photo. If you can find someone who can translate the Japanese, you’ll know how to do this at home,” he said.

queen amber how to

menu 1

menu 2

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What I found thoroughly intriguing was how they shook their shaker – no shaking was involved. Perhaps not to dilute the sweet milk, the barista would turn the shaker around on a block of ice in the refrigerator. Check out the video below.

Tucked a block away from the colors, lights and sounds of Ginza is Cafe de L’ambre. A long day of walking in the city is rewarded by the quiet, and only briefly disturbed by the sound of creaking leather and wooden steps. And the smell of coffee.

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Footnote: I noticed that apart from coffee shops, Tokyo has a fixation for slot and bingo machines made to look like amusement parks. Online, I whipped out my phone to explore exciting online bingo. I’m not sure if Japanese Internet was as good as they say it was because I was rather disappointed with the speeds I was getting, connected to a 2-week prepaid Japanese SIM card. In fact, the hotel WiFi was equally bad *shrug*.

About the author

Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast, EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

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