Teas ¥400 - ¥800, Breakfast ¥800 - ¥1,200
- 4 Chome-35-12 Nishiogikita, Suginami, Tokyo 167-0042
- Distance from Station:
- 10 minutes on foot from JR Nishi-Ogikubo Station, North exit
- 03-3390-2805 (Japanese only)
- Saturday & Sunday only, 7:00am - 1:00pm (Closed on weekdays)
- https://www.instagram.com/nihoncha.cafe.lelien/ (external link)
- Staff speak Japanese only.
JAPANESE CAFE LE LIEN
Start Your Day with the Right Cup of Tea
[published December 2022]
Japanese Cafe Le Lien is a cozy, bright Japanese tea café about 10 minutes’ walk (800 metres) or a short bus ride north of JR Nishi-Ogikubo Station (JB03 or JC10), off the Chuo train line. Zenpukuji Park is close by, making it a good place for walking or exercising (with or without dogs) early in the morning, as Le Lien nearby opens for a nice cup of tea with breakfast at the early hour of 7:00AM!
Japanese Cafe Le Lien was opened by the proprietor, Ms. Yuko Kondo, in May 2018.
The space originally housed a veterinary practice run by her father and an antique shop run by her mother. When they retired, she wanted to do something with the space. Being a morning person who used to walk a dog early in the morning, she thought it would be the ideal time and place to run a morning café featuring the Japanese tea that she always loved. The architecture is interesting with some curved walls and old-style doors and windows. Apart from the new kitchen, the fittings and furniture are tastefully arranged antiques.
The name of the café, Le Lien, is French translating to “The Link,” as Kondo-san hopes this café to be a place where the community and people are brought together and form a bond through tea.
Teas on offer include various single origin sencha (Japanese green tea), genmaicha (green tea with toasted brown rice), hojicha (roasted tea), wakocha (Japanese black tea), sannen bancha (three-year-aged roasted tea) and taiwanese tea. The prices range from 400 yen to 800 yen.
The teas can be taken on their own or with wagashi (a Japanese sweet), or a homemade breakfast meal. Over time the breakfast option has become very popular and Kondo-san likes cooking, but the café’s main focus has always been the tea, so the dishes are quite delicately flavoured so as not to overpower or interfere with the taste of the tea. The food menu changes weekly as it uses fresh seasonal ingredients. The breakfast set consists of a main dish, rice and tea. You can select from a choice of 3 types of rice: okayu (rice porridge), Japanese chimaki (flavoured glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaf) or genmai (brown rice). The prices vary depending on the number of side dishes— 1 side dish (800 yen), 2 side dishes (1,000 yen) or 3 side dishes (1,200 yen). For the tea that comes with the meal you can choose sencha or genmaicha.
Kondo-san has deep knowledge and love for Japanese tea. Years ago she was happy to drink some of the many blends that are common, but tasting some fine single origin tea, especially Koshun, was a moment of epiphany. Having studied the importance of brewing methods, she brews and serves sencha 3 times. Kondo-san explains that the first brew starts at a low temperature for more umami and sweetness but less bitter taste, then a higher water temperature for the second brew to taste bitterness and astringency, and eventually the final brew that reveals more of the teas intrinsic character. She has continued to add to her knowledge whilst running the café, enthusiastically learning about the regions and altitudes of the plantations and the characteristics of each tea.
She emphasises the delight in focusing on the differences rather than consistencies, just like the Japanese proverb “Ichigo ichie” (every opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter), your tea will taste different every time depending on such things as the condition of the tea itself, the atmosphere, your own mood and state of health etc.
As 2023 will be the café’s 5th anniversary, Kondo-san would like to organise some tea related events, possibly some workshops in the future. Le Lien is the ideal place to visit for a morning cup of tea you can taste at your leisure, enjoy the flavours of the different varieties, and also savour a delicious breakfast. What a beautiful way to start the day!
Writing and Photography: Ian & Minako Jackson
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