There are many coffee lovers around the world, and if you are one of them who plans to visit Japan, please make sure that you explore the unique coffee culture in Japan. Just so you know, the Japanese are the 5th largest coffee importers in the world with a total of US$1.26 Billion for the year 2018. Now, that is a lot of coffee for a country so small.
Japan is also noted to be one of the up and coming countries that consume coffee but is still not listed in the top 20 of the world life. For some strange reason, the Japanese tend to prefer coffee over the world-famous Japanese tea and they do not like espresso.
What a local kissaten looks like in Japan.
A kissaten is translated as a tea drinking shop, but in Japan, it is more commonly known as a coffee shop, which usually serves coffee, food and other drinks. This is mentioned because there are many places that have the name kissaten.
Before you continue, I would like to stress that there is no such thing as the best coffee shop in Japan or the best coffee in Japan. Whatever you read online is all made for article content, and most of those who write articles like that have never even been to Japan. Coffee in Japan varies in terms of taste and each person is unique to their taste.
A gourmet coffee shop in Tokyo.
What Do They Call Coffee in Japan?
The most common name in Japanese is Ko-hi or Kouhii, which is translated from the Japanese Katagana word for coffee. This means that if you walk into a cafe, you can just order Ko-hi. But the challenge comes next when they speak to you in Japanese, so to clarify, just let them know if you want hot coffee (hotto ko-hi) or iced coffee (ice ko-hi).
Usually, when you order a hot or iced coffee, it is served plain and comes with sugar and creamer on the side. For hot coffee, granulated sugar and creamer are served while for iced coffee, packet sugar and a cute milk creamer are served. You can always ask for more creamer or milk if you like.
Some of the imported coffee beans sold at speciality shops in Japan.
What Kind of Coffee Do Japanese Sell?
Since the 1980s, coffee made a huge impact on Japan, with all kinds of local and international brands opening up coffee shops and cafes everywhere. From street corners to shopping malls, you can easily find a cafe or shop that sells coffee.
Here is a fun fact – Did you know that Japan imports roasted coffee beans from 40 countries around the world? Yes and this makes the country a true coffee haven for those who are knee deep into coffee drinking. However, there are many who still claim that kissaten outlets are the place to get some good tasting coffee versus the international chain outlets.
Another thing that is extremely popular is the coffee vending machines, which are found all over Japan and on every street corner. These vending machines not only churn out cold coffee but hot coffee cans as well.
Coffee has been popular in Japan since the 1920s.
A funny thing to highlight is that Starbucks in Japan is the third largest in the world, with over 1,600 outlets. But local brands like Doutor and Pronto also have a strong presence all over Japan. While the experience may be a little different from you are used too, it is always fun to try some coffee in a different country.
At most cafes or coffee chains, you will be guaranteed to see latte, mocha, cappuccino and Americano choices on the menu. This is the most popular styles of coffee that the locals love to drink. Anything else different needs to be sourced at the true coffee connoisseur outlets.
The famous Starbucks coffee outlet at the Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.
What Are The Popular Coffee Chains In Japan?
Due to the strong coffee culture all over Japan, you can find quite a number of local and international coffee chains throughout the country. For international, there is Starbucks, Tully’s Coffee, Pronto Coffee, Segafredo and Becks just to name the popular ones. There are of course many other new international brands developing and slowly entering the market in Japan.
For the local Japanese coffee chains, they are Doutor, St. Marc, Moriva Coffee, Miyakoshiya Coffee, Ginza Renoir, Excelsior Caffe, Ueshima Coffee, Caffe Veloce, Kohikan, Komeda Kohiten, Hoshino, and Yanaka Coffee. Well, there are many others that are not listed, but if you travel around Japan, you will surely come across the more local brands.
Various types of canned coffee sold in convenience stores across Japan. Photo Wikipedia.
Don’t forget the coffee vending machine which is extremely popular and found all over Japan. You will see top brands like Asahi, Suntory, Kirin, Wonda and Georgia dominate most of the machines, offering you cold and hot choices with very reasonable prices that range from ¥100 to ¥200 per can. This is one of my favourite past times when I visit Japan, checking the vending machines to see if there are any new coffee cans available.
How Much Does Coffee Cost In Japan?
The prices of coffee are relatively cheap and varies from large cities to smaller towns all over Japan. Most common prices for a cup of coffee range anywhere from ¥200 to ¥800, where the latter is usually at speciality coffee shops.
At small cafes or restaurants, you will be able to get away with coffee priced at around ¥160 to ¥180 per cup, and these are usually the standard coffee. Don’t expect gourmet coffee for those prices, but again it’s all in the experience of tasting coffee while in Japan.
Vending machines offer hot and cold canned coffee all over Japan.
Budget Coffee in Japan
With all the glamour and gourmet coffee being offered, there is still a very large market for the budget coffee lovers. Therefore, it is at places like 7-11, Family Mart and Lawson where you can get some decent coffee priced around ¥100 to ¥150 per cup.
This is mentioned simply because there are people out there who can consume five to ten cups of coffee in a day, and you do not want to break the bank when you are in Japan. The easiest way to do this is by visiting any of the convenient stores to get your daily or even hourly fix.
One of the popular coffee kissaten in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
Exploring some of the different coffee from around the world can be rewarding, and when you visit Japan, you will surely have a field day doing this. Again, Japan is number four in the world for top consumers of coffee, and there is so much variety available. At speciality stores, you can even order imported coffee beans from all over the world.
In large cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Sapporo, you can find more choices of coffee outlets or Kissaten versus in the smaller cities or towns. But let it be known that at times, it is the smaller towns that can end up offering you some of the best tasting coffee in Japan.