Ichiro Sekiguchi might have been considered by many the Godfather of coffee in the East – at the very least in the country of Japan. I first heard about him when he was in his mid 90’s, and was full of joy to be able to shake his hand when he was 100 years of age. This week I finally made it back to Tokyo and went directly to his Cafe de L’Ambre. Knowing that he is not there the whole day and being I arrived late afternoon, as I was leaving, I asked about him.
In March of this year he passed away, they informed me. With sad heart and clearly unhappy face, I extended my condolences to Fujihiko Hayashi, his nephew who replied with a smile: “He lived to be 103”.
It is an odd feeling, not seeing him walking around or inspecting the coffee seeds being roasted or knowing that he will be driven in the next morning on the motorcycle, as I witnessed several times before. Yet, day after day, the operation continues with its success and oddities. There are not too many places like the Cafe de L’ambre in the world – of this I am certain.
An unusual coffee concept, serving several aged coffees from Cuba, Africa and South America
- Long-serving management. Sensei Sekiguchi opened in 1948 and as a centenarian was still roasting on regular basis, except on Sundays
- No wi-fi available
- Nowhere does one sit closer together at the bar than at Cafe de L’Ambre
- Most serving utensils have been developed by Sekiguchi himself – various porcelain cups, cans, filters
- Coffee is cooled in a cocktail shaker by rolling it in an indented block of ice, kept in a freezer that due to age should be in a museum as exhibition piece
- In a room built to specification for Sekiguchi, raw coffee is stored for decades
- Their strict pouring tradition continues. The filters filled with coffee are moved in a circle while the kettle with the water is kept in a fixed position
Cafe de L’ambre is an exemplary institution in the Japanese tradition of consistency, the same that keeps them competitive, relevant, important and qualitative special.