Let me ask you this: how often can you get something that’s the best in the world for less than ten bucks? Because today – score! – I had the BEST COFFEE IN THE WORLD for ¥700.
It was at a little timeslip of a coffee bar in Ginza called the Café Bechet.
Naturally – this seems to be a requirement for Best In The World – it’s not easy to find. Tucked away from the street on the ground floor of a narrow building near Ginza Ichome station, I almost missed it. It didn’t look like a coffee shop – more like a bar. Dark inside, even in the middle of the day. But the second I walked through the door, I was immersed in the pre-war clarinet jazz of Sidney Bechet and the mingling aromas of coffee and cigarettes,* and was transported back in time to that grainy newsreel-ish, pre-war age.
Behind the long, polished, wooden bar is where the serious coffee brewing took place. Each cup is ground and made to order, and mine took nearly five minutes to prepare. The wait was fun, though, because it was so interesting to watch.
After I ordered, my coffee was precisely measured out bean by bean in a balance scale, then tossed into the grinder. The perfectly pulverized results were transferred into a sort of sock-on-a-hoop, then the lady behind the counter began to juggle the four long-spouted copper water pots simmering near the end of the bar.
The water in one is kept at the perfect temperature for cup warming – she filled my flowered china cup to the brim before attending to the actual brewing. Lifting one of the other pots high above the coffee sock, she drizzled the hot water over the waiting grounds in a stream so thin, it took over four minutes to fill the little copper pot that she briefly warmed again over the flame before pouring the elixir of caffeine into my waiting cup.
I’m not a huge coffee snob, but I think a delicious cup of French Roast is truly sublime. This one really was the best I’ve ever tasted, anywhere in the world. Note: In keeping with the pre-war atmosphere, smoking is allowed. If you’re a tobacco militant, you should avoid this place and settle for the second best coffee in the world.
Read a novel set in Tokyo
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!