Café de l'Ambre is a classical kissaten (coffee shop) in the heart of the Ginza. With the proliferation of modern espresso bars and chain coffee stores throughout the city, this shop dedicated to the perfection of coffee is refreshingly unique. A sign outside the entrance reads "Coffee only," marking this 70 year old institution for serious coffee aficionados only. The interior is vintage from the 60’s but manages to feel simultaneously elegant as well as cozy. With leather bar stools, a polished wood bar counter, and a shelf lined with jars full of aged beans, this place exudes an atmosphere of heritage. The space is quiet depending on the time of day and shielded from the general business of the Ginza district outside. It is a short walk from Shinbashi Station on a small side street near Ginza Dori.
The menu serves coffee in any way possible: straight, blended, hot, cold, in liqueur drinks, in pudding, or even jellied. Espresso or lattes are not available here. An unusual item on the menu is coffee with egg yolk. Café de l'Ambre specializes in beans of various ages and origin including aged beans from as far back as the 1950's. There are close to 30 different single-origin varieties on the menu, including Colombian or Cuban beans from the 70's. The prices are not cheap and a cup may be 700 to 800 yen, but this is no ordinary cup of coffee. The owner roasts the beans himself in small batches to maintain freshness, and each cup is methodically ground and brewed to order. The strength and size of the coffee can be customized, and every cup comes with a glass of water. This is coffee that is detailed and personal in its selection, preparation and consumption. The taste of the coffee is amazingly intense and not unlike wine. Take a break from the busy streets of Ginza and enjoy a cup of out of this world coffee at this institution.
Café de l’Ambre is open from Monday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.
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I first visited Japan in 2001 and since then have returned many times. With the efficiency and reliability of its transportation, the graciousness of the people, and the dedication to quality in food and service, Japan has been my standard for modern travel convenience. Every return has reminded me of the remarkable depth and diversity of the country with no two trips being alike, despite retracing steps through familiar neighborhoods. The constant dynamism of the urban centers combined with the emphasis on tradition, sense of aesthetics, and attention to detail make it one of the most exciting places to visit and an inexhaustible land for novel experiences, modern and ancient.