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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogCoffee in Japanese Culture: An Amazing Guide!

Coffee in Japanese Culture: An Amazing Guide!

James LauJames Lau
Published Time
Posted on 
February 29, 2024
A cup of coffee in a Japanese shop.

From its rich history from the 17th century to modern-day trends like 3D latte art and summer espresso concoctions, coffee is prevalent in Japanese culture! Discover the best coffee houses, including iconic brands like Doutor and hidden gems like Komeda Kohiten. Whether you want a classic coffee cup or explore creative creations, Japan has it all!

How did coffee arrive in Japan?

Coffee in Japan goes back to the 17th century when Dutch and Portuguese traders first introduced it in Nagasaki. Coffee culture became more significant in the late 1800s. Japan’s first coffee shop opened in Ueno by Eikei Tei. It was inspired by France’s coffee house. Unfortunately, during World War II, coffee imports were stopped. However, after the war, coffee regained popularity. This was thanks to the mass production of canned coffee created by Tadao Ueshima in 1969.

An espresso machine making espresso.
There are many places you can enjoy an espresso. Image via Shutterstock

Various brands like Boss, Georgia, Nescafe, and Roots became popular due to canned coffee. Coffee culture became a part of Japan’s post-war lifestyle. Today, coffee shops are ideal places to hang out, study, and relax. They are present all over Japan. There are specialty craft coffee stores where baristas train daily to create the best cup of coffee. Additionally, there are many different types of cafes like animal cafes, maid cafes, and traditional kissaten.

What are some unique coffee drinks and desserts?

Coffee Jelly

Coffee jelly is a chilled dessert popular in Japan, made from black coffee, gelatin powder, and sugar. It has a rich and silky texture, like jello. Moreover, it’s often served in small cups or cut into cubes and topped with whipped cream or milk. Although Jell-O desserts have fallen out of fashion in some Western countries, coffee jelly remains a beloved treat in Japan.

A glass of coffee jelly.
Coffee jelly is a refreshing dessert. Image via Shutterstock

Its origins date back to the 1960s when it was introduced by a Japanese coffee shop chain. You can find coffee jelly on the menus of many restaurants, cafes, and bakeries in Japan. Pre-made versions are also available in supermarkets and convenience stores.

Overall, coffee jelly is loved for its refreshing taste and quick pick-me-up. It has become a staple in Japanese culinary culture, showcasing its enduring popularity and significance in the country’s dessert landscape. You can enjoy it with ice cream, parfaits, or baked treats!

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3D Latte Art

HATCOFFEE, a café in Tokyo’s Kuramae area, is famous for its creative custom 2D and 3D latte art. Customers can choose from eight flavors and provide pictures ranging from animals to famous characters. The café’s owner recreates the art using milk and espresso, creating lifelike art in just five minutes per cup. The 2D art involves drawing details with espresso on milk, while the 3D art uses whipped milk. Prices for both 2D and 3D latte art are 1,200 yen each.

A cup of 3D latte art, featuring a marshmallow bear.
3D latte art is both cute and delicious! Image via Shutterstock

HATCOFFEE also offers a variety of drinks besides lattes, including espresso, soft drinks, beer, cocktails, hot dishes, and desserts. Located near Asakusa’s tourist attractions, it is an ideal spot for a lunch break while exploring the area. The café’s attention to detail in design and flavor ensures a satisfying experience, making it a must-visit destination for coffee lovers seeking an artistic and delicious treat.

Summer Coffee Trends

In recent years, Japan’s coffee culture has seen more summer beverage trends, with espresso tonic being a popular choice for coffee enthusiasts. Originating from Sweden, espresso tonic gained popularity in Japan’s specialty coffee shops around 2015-2016, with a unique blend of bitterness and fizz. This trend has evolved to include changing tonic water with sparkling water and adding different flavorings like citrus fruits, honey, and ginger, showing Japan’s creativity.

A glass of lemon soda coffee in a Japanese shop.
Summer coffee drinks usually include citrus! Image via Shutterstock

Japanese coffee shops are also trying out unusual coffee pairings, such as espresso cola, which combines craft cola with fresh espresso for a spiced beverage. There’s interest in transparent coffee, shown by Starbucks’ limited-edition summer drinks made with clear coffee. Other trends, like espresso lemon tonic, coffee lime soda, and coffee strawberry soda, show Japan’s motivation to push past traditional coffee culture and give consumers new experiences.

Which company has the best coffee?

Doutor, Japan’s largest coffee chain, has served European-style coffee since 1980. Their selection of beans from 20 regions gets roasted under direct fire for rich flavors. Ginza Renoir has 1960s Tokyo vibes, serving coffee famous for its Colombian brews. Excelsior Caffe provides Italian-themed coffee and spacious environments. Ueshima Coffee House offers comfort and ambiance, using beans from Hawaiian and Jamaican farms for distinct flavors.

Various grade of coffee beans and grounds in a cup.
You can enjoy different grades of coffee. Image via Shutterstock

Kohikan, a 50-year-old chain, offers traditional Japanese coffee with various roasting methods and a signature blend. Komeda Kohiten, originating from Nagoya, provides hospitality and an original blend of coffee in a cozy setting that makes you feel at home. Inoda Coffee, Kyoto’s oldest coffee house since 1940, offers original blends in old Japanese cafes. Hoshino Coffee is famous for its aromatic brews and homely feel, featuring a menu with soufflé pancakes.

Why is coffee important in Japanese culture?

From traditional kissaten to trendy cafes serving 3D latte art, Japan has an exciting coffee culture that every coffee lover will enjoy! Whether you’re savoring a rich cup of Ueshima’s coffee or sitting in the traditional setting of Inoda Cofee, each coffee house tells a unique story rich in history and tradition!

A cup of coffee with coffee beans.
Have you ever had coffee in Japan before? Image via Shutterstock

Journey through Japan’s coffee scene and discover the perfect blend of flavor, artistry, and hospitality. Immerse yourself in the world of Japanese coffee! Have you ever tried any of these coffee trends? How about these coffee houses? Let us know in the comments below!

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