La vie en Café is located in a very odd little building behind the Okayama City Symphonic Orchestra. If you spend enough time in Japan, you quickly realize that there is not many old buildings in Japanese cities. This building seem to be clinging to another age among a sea of new constructions since it survived the bombing of Okayama. (Okayama castle which is about 5 min away was severely damaged)
The first floor is split between a Christian bookstore and La vie en Cafe. The Christian nature of this building go all the way back to 1914 when the Okayama Temperance Union decided to build the Temperance Hall.
When you walk into La vie en Cafe, you cannot help but notice the feel of authenticity, the patina of over 80 years of constant use. I don’t know for how many years this coffee shop has been in operation, but it felt like stepping into an old museum.
The coffee shop is a single long room with a bar on the right hand side right next to the entrance and 3 long wooden tables in the back. There are windows on the right hand side and the back of the restaurant opens on a beautiful courtyard.
The hanging lights provide give the place a very retro look.
The menu is pretty simple, drip coffee is offered in bold and medium taste. I opted for the bold taste. I think cold coffee might be offered during summer. An old lady took care of the service while a younger man prepared the coffee.
I started exploring the coffee shop and found out a show case near the entrance featuring the history of the building. There is also a tray with numerous bottles of fountain pen inks on the counter. A really nice vintage randonneur bicycle was leaning on the back window.
I sat with my wife next to the bookshelves in the back and we were shocked to find out magazines about fountain pen, bicycles and vintage camera. It might be weird, but these are 3 of my most enduring obsessions. It’s really easy for me to connect with this coffee, if you haven’t been collecting fountain pens for half your life, you might not get that excited.
The coffee is freshly grounded and poured over into a nel drip. I really like nel drip, it’s labor intensive and the taste is great. I wish I could use a nel drip at home, but I simply don’t have the time in the morning to care for the flannel filter.
The coffee was really good, at least for my taste. Not too strong, not too toasted. I tried the medium blend, but I am happy I ordered the bold blend. It’s also served in very simple cups emblazoned with La vie en cafe logo which comprises what I believe is the original logo of the Temperance Hall.
I sat there flipping through fountain pen magazine and drinking truly good coffee on a nice Sunday afternoon, could life be any better?
I really enjoyed this quiet cafe and I will certainly go back. The next time, I will probably sit at the counter and try to learn more about the owner in my really bad Japanese.
Even if you are not crazy about collecting pens or riding old bicycles, I think a visit to La vie en Cafe will put a smile on your face.
La vie en cafe