Cafe De L’ambre is where you can find the Father of Coffee Roasting
There’s a roaster cafe called ‘Cafe De L’ambre’ in Ginza Tokyo that’s been running since 1948.
The owner, Ichiro Sekiguchi, is over a 100 years old. He’s been roasting coffee for over half a decade. Although he can’t make coffee for his customers anymore, he still roasts and chills at the cafe while his employees make and serve coffee.
I had the chance to visit his cafe when I went to Tokyo. I never knew about this place until I read a book about people who brought the coffee culture to Japan.
Sekiguchi-san is said to be the father of coffee roasting. And his ideas and pursuit of extracting the best coffee possible has placed his cafe on the map for decades.
This is definitely one of the places to visit as a coffee pilgrimage in Japan.
What a legendary place.
Aging Coffee Before Roasting
I’ve never been too much of an enthusiast when it came to aged coffee. Aged coffee usually refers to the raw coffee beans that’s been stored for several years. A lot of people say that aged coffee is no good and that the fresher the better.
Sekiguchi-san’s term for old coffee, according to his blog (in Japanese), is coffee that’s been stored and maintained for 10 years or more.
He says that depending on the coffee, and the quality as well as the characteristics of the coffee, they can unleash their potential after being aged. He’s experienced such circumstances and he’s created his own formula of what and how to age. He’s pretty much an innovator as well as an eccentric.
I tried his aged Kenya coffee. It was somewhere around the high/city roast and I experienced the unique citrus-like acidity that I’ve found in most Kenya coffee. There was also a very distinct tartiness that lingered after I had taken a sip. Quite unique.
As time passed and the coffee cooled, the taste turned into something more of a steeped lemon-ginger-like acidity that was simply amazing.
There was another aged coffee which I wanted to try but never got to. The Mocha Matari (a very delicious but pricey coffee) which was probably aging for more than 30 years. Since there’s only a certain amount that Sekiguchi-san ages, the aged coffee is pretty much a vintage product like wine.
The Importance of Dripping Pots and Consistent Grinds
A lot of roaster cafes are particular about their dripper pots because it greatly influences the extraction process.
Sekiguchi-san developed a unique dripper pot with a pot manufacturing company to create something that’s easy to pour, with the water gently falling onto the ground coffee. Sekiguchi-san says [湯滴を置いていく気持ち] which roughly translates to ” the intention of placing water droplets ” . This gentle way of pouring is said to provide a consistent and effective extraction.
Sekiguchi-san seems very meticulous with just about every aspect of coffee and this can be seen in the grinds.
The grinder is also something he’s put a lot of effort in perfecting. He sees the fines of coffee grinds as a nuisance when it comes to extracting coffee it always gets over-extracted and leaves an unpleasant taste. Coffee mills will always produce a certain amount of the coffee fines. So he tried to reduce the amount of coffee fines produced, as well as maintain a very consistent grind.
He talks about how he worked with a certain company to create a low spin mill to create the ideal mill.
Consistent grinds of coffee and reduced coffee fines result in well extracted coffee. I was quite amazed to see just how consistent the coffee grinds were when put into the flannel filter.
A Pilgrimage Destination
Cafe de L’ambre is truly a magical and unique place. The interior is frozen in time, with coffee jars lining up the counter shelf, movable counter seats, a cozy little space and the mixture of smoke, coffee and silence.
They only serve coffee. But a wide variety that will simply blow your mind.
Leave your thoughts behind when you enter, because you’ll have some new ones when you leave.
The owner Sekiguchi-san is an innovator defying the coffee wave with a wave of his own. I’m not sure if we’ll ever find someone like him, but it’s truly a pleasure and honor meeting him and getting to try his coffee that he’s poured his soul into for more than 60 years.
This is quite simply the destination for a coffee pilgrim looking to see, enjoy and adventure.
This blog post about Cafe De L’ambre by a coffee lover in Tokyo is interesting and you get to hear what Sekiguchi-san has to say in an interview. Definitely be sure to check it out.
Address: 8-10-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Opening Hours: 12:00 ~ 22:00 (Mondays to Saturdays)
12:00 ~ 19:00 (Sundays and Holidays)
What to try the first time: The No.2 Blend + Aged Coffee