Japan is home to many coffee lovers, so there are a lot of coffee shops in Japan. Read on for five Japanese cafe chain recommendations from a coffee-loving writer.
What Is Japan’s Cafe and Coffee Culture Like?
What do you imagine when you think about the coffee culture in Japan? One aspect that is often spoken of is drinking iced coffee. Indeed, the concept of drinking coffee chilled is said to have originated in Japan. And if there’s one place you can purchase all different kinds of coffee from vending machines, including iced coffees, hot black coffees, and cafe lattes, it's Japan.
Coffee was introduced to Japan in the 18th century, and the first authentic coffee shop opened in 1888. Cafe culture developed from table service-style coffee shops to include counter service-style shops like Doutor in the 1970s, and in 1996, the first Starbucks opened in Japan.
Starbucks is certainly popular in Japan, but there are many distinctive coffee chains that you'd expect to only find here, of which this article will introduce a few. Nowadays, coffee is treasured in a variety of styles.
1. Doutor Coffee Shop
Speaking of the coffee chain that’s been driving Japan's cafe culture since the 1970s, Doutor now has over 1,000 stores across Japan. This is a counter service-style coffee shop, where you can buy a cup for the low price of 224 JPY (incl. tax). Service is fast, and there are also takeout options. Another great thing is that, because of its large number of stores, whenever you feel like taking a break, you can pop into one pretty much wherever you are.
Despite the cheap prices, there are no compromises on the flavor of the coffee! Here, you can enjoy coffee with a strong aroma and deep flavor, which is primarily roasted by conduction heating methods. To go with the coffee, this writer always orders a delicious German Hot Dog (224 JPY (incl. tax)). This hot dog is so popular that it’s probably the first thing that pops into most Japanese people's minds when they think of Doutor.
If you’re looking for something substantial, maybe for lunch, this writer recommends the Milano Sandwiches, which feature different flavors to enjoy for each season. For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the exquisite Mille Crepe (387 JPY (incl. tax)), made from countless layers of crepe and cream.
2. Ueshima Coffee House
Ueshima Coffee House is a coffee chain that consists of over 100 stores run by UCC, a food and drink producer specializing in coffee. Wood tones give these stores a warm feeling where you can enjoy coffee by counter service in a relaxed atmosphere. The flannel drip coffee has a mellow fragrance and full-bodied flavor, and feels extremely smooth.
You can enjoy a variety of coffee styles here, but this writer's top recommendation is the flavorful Brown Sugar Milk Coffee (420 JPY (excl. tax)). The addition of milk and sweet brown sugar to the specialty coffee is exquisitely delicious, and the iced version is popular too. For something very Japanese, you should also try the lineup of sesame-flavored coffees and Japanese sweets.
3. Komeda’s Coffee
Nagoya is known for having a particularly unique coffee culture within Japan. Here, your morning coffee order comes with a variety of edible extras. Enter Komeda's Coffee, a coffee chain born in Nagoya, with over 800 stores throughout the country.
Komeda’s Morning Service (offered until 11:00 am) includes a complimentary extra: for just the price of your drink, you’ll also receive toasted bread and your choice of hard-boiled egg, egg salad, or ogura-an (sweet red bean paste). An excellent deal! Other popular menu items are the “Shiro-Noir,” a piping-hot danish topped with cool soft-serve ice cream (650 - 670 JPY) and their filling sandwiches. This is a coffee shop you should try for breakfast or lunch while sightseeing in Japan.
4. Hoshino Coffee
Hoshino Coffee is a chain with the charm of an old-school Japanese coffee shop. There are over 200 stores throughout Japan. Here you can enjoy hand-drip coffee made from freshly ground beans roasted by conduction, with three different blended coffees to choose from that differ on roast and blend.
This writer recommends the Specialty Souffle Pancakes, which are one of the reasons for Hoshino Coffee's popularity. The soft, fluffy texture of this treat is an excellent match for a cup of coffee. The pancakes take some time to cook, but you'll always end up going back for more. Aside from the souffle pancakes, there is a full lineup of food and desserts, so people wanting to eat yoshoku (Japanese-style Western foods) should visit.
5. Cafe Renoir
Cafe Renoir is a coffee chain with retro, Taisho Era (1912 - 1926) vibes, that maintains over 80 stores centered on the Tokyo and Kanagawa prefectures. You will be fully satisfied with the deep, smooth taste of the flannel drip coffee here. The prices are a little higher compared to other coffee chains, but this chain offers table service with spacious seating, so Japanese people come to Renoir to relax and feel at home.
In addition to the specialty coffee, the appeal of Cafe Renoir is that you can enjoy many other Japanese coffeehouse favorites, such as cream soda, coffee jelly, and yoshoku cuisine. For something a little different, you can try the kombucha (dried kombu seaweed made into a fine powder and steeped in hot water). This seems like an unusual drink you'd probably only see in Japan, but it’s moderately salty and delicious!
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d POINT is a free point service operated by Japan’s largest telecommunications company, NTT DOCOMO, INC. This is a system in which you can earn points just by showing your d POINT CARD when making purchases at d POINT Member Stores such as leading convenience store chains, McDonald's, cafes, and supermarkets.
Doutor Coffee Shop, which was mentioned earlier, is a d POINT Member Store. You can use 1 earned point as 1 yen, so if this sounds like an interesting offer to you, register membership at the link below!
So, what do you think? You should definitely visit these coffee chains at least once when you’re in Japan!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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