Coffee is one of Japan's most popular drinks, only second to tea. While still can be considered in its infancy, it’s no question coffee is on the rise in Japan.
History of Coffee in Japan
Coffee was first introduced to Japan in the 17th century by the Dutch and was originally used for medicinal purposes as well as by Japanese prostitutes as a stimulant. It wasn’t widely available and wasn’t very popular due to its bitter taste. It wasn’t until 1888 where the first coffee house was opened and was promoted as a place for the younger generation to gather and socialize. By the early 18th century more than 30,000 coffee houses have opened in Japan. Additionally, coffee’s popularity grew along with the popularity of Western culture and the introduction of instant coffee in the 1960s, which promoted coffee at home use as well.
Japan's Coffee Culture
Coffee’s popularity in Japan has increased eves since the first coffee house was opened. For reference, Japan's coffee consumption in 2017 alone was 7.74 million 60kg bags of coffee. Like in other countries, Japan’s coffee culture has gone through a few phases over the years.
These cultural phases include the idea of fast coffee, being sold as a quick pick-me-up drink. The large Japanese coffee chains are great for the fast paced lifestyle that follows Japanese business people and students. The specialty coffee culture for those who prefer independently-owned shops and roasters rather than large chains, is on the rise in Japan as well.
The last cultural phase would be the cafe boom in 2016 where a view of coffee being a sit down, relaxing, and socializing drink emerged. This goes into the popularity of Japan's unique, cute-themed, and aesthetic cafes.
Instant Coffee and Japan
Instant coffee in Japan is also a popular option and in tune with the idea of coffee being sold as on-the-go option. The popularity of instant coffee and canned coffee can be demonstrated in many of Japan’s vending machines. Instant coffee boxes are sold next to brewed coffee, which is often offered in 24-hour convenience stores that provide seating and eating areas. For the home, instant coffee is a staple with the average consumption being 1.1 kg in 2019 (Statista).
How They Drink Their Coffee in Japan
People in Japan have their unique coffee culture and coffee preferences compared to other places in the world. Beyond drinking the best instant coffee they can find for home use, Japanese love canned coffee! You can find canned coffee in every vending machine. It makes it easy for someone who is rushing to work to just stop by a machine and get coffee without having to wait in lines at cafes or large chains. These canned coffees are not only extremely affordable, but also come in a variety of flavors including black coffee and those containing milk and sugar. Vending machines also keep the cans warm during winter and cold during the warmer weathers.
Iced coffee or iced Americanos are also popular in Japan during warmer weather. Their iced coffee are usually served black and made strong so you can appreciate the natural taste of the coffee. Of course, you can add as much milk and sugar as you prefer.
Lastly, in some places in Japan rather than serving fresh milk in their coffee, the milk is mixed along with creamer. Japanese also have a special sweetener called Gomme syrup that is used for iced coffee rather than sugar since it gives a different type of sweetness and dissolves easily in cold coffee.
5 Most Unique Cafes in Japan
The Pokemon Cafe
Via @Pokemon Cafe
This cafe is exactly as it sounds; serving cute Pokemon-themed food, desserts, and drinks! This Pokemon-themed cafe is so popular that even reservations are needed, so be sure to plan ahead of time.
Gram Cafe & Pancakes
This cafe is famous for their fluffy stacked pancakes that also come in different flavors with different fruits and decorations. Pair this with their coffee, tea, juice, or even a frappe and your tastebuds will thank you!
Dumbo Doughnuts and Coffee
This cafe serves handmade, delicious doughnuts in more than ten different flavors at a time, so you never get bored. These doughnuts are so big they can be put onto your drink or coffee cup for an aesthetic picture and easy carry.
Les Grands Arbres
This building features a beautiful treehouse and greenery in the middle of Tokyo. It has a flower shop on the first two floors and the cafe is on the third and fourth floors, where you can enjoy healthy meals along with coffee or tea.
Via PomPomPurin Cafe
This cafe is based off of Sanrio’s pudding dog with their dishes, desserts, and drinks decorated and themed after this cute character. Even the decor and color scheme is matched to fit!