The 5 Best Japanese Coffee Brands (Plus Buying Tips)

The Japanese treat coffee seriously. Because of this, there’s a wide selection of coffee blends and flavors. To make it even more exciting, you won’t be able to find the type of coffee Japan offers anywhere else! 

If you’re curious about which Japanese coffee brands to try, read this article. We’ll talk about the best names behind the coffee culture in Japan. 

In addition, you’ll learn why the coffee in this beautiful country is one-of-a-kind and worth trying. Let’s get started. 

What to Know About Japan’s Unique Coffee Culture

japan’s coffee cup

 

Coffee is more than an energizing drink for the Japanese; it’s part of their culture. Most Japanese people make coffee a part of their daily routine. And, if you don’t know, coffee in Japan is entirely different from other countries. 

It’s a completely memorable coffee experience in Japan. Everything is different, from the brewing process and extraction to the social aspect of the beverage. 

One thing that’s different about Japan’s coffee culture is the fact that generally, people enjoy drinking the coffee black. You’ll seldom see them putting add-ins, such as cream or milk. 

Even though most people in Japan prefer black coffee, there are two types of coffee that people do enjoy with add-ins: 

  1. Coffee Fresh
  2. Gomme Syrup 

When you order coffee with milk, most Japanese cafes will give you coffee fresh. Coffee fresh is a portion of artificial cream. Adding it to your coffee makes the taste milder and less intense, but it does have a different flavor than milk. 

The other add-in is called Gomme syrup and is unique to Japan. It dissolves easily in your coffee and has a distinct sweetness different from sugar. 

Traditional Japanese Coffee Shops

japanese coffee shops
Image: Naotake Murayama

Another thing to know about coffee and coffee culture in Japan is that they have very unique coffee shops. Yes, you can also find famous coffee chains such as Starbucks. But most Japanese prefer traditional cafes.

Japanese coffee shops are called kissatens, which translates to ‘an independent coffee shop’ in English. In these shops, you won’t find as wide varieties as you would in American cafes. However, the coffee they do serve is delicious.

The environment in kissatens is different, too. It tends to be a bit quieter, so you can get some work done if you need to. 

You’ll also notice that these Japanese coffee shops look more traditional, with a lot of inspiration and architecture from historical Japan. It’s different from the usual coffee shops that look more chic and modern. 

Another fascinating thing about Japanese cafes is your freedom to choose the type of coffee bean you want your drink made out of. Kissatens normally have several specialty coffee options that are sourcde from different countries. Seasonal blends are also common.

If you enter kissatens, you’ll see more people from the older generation. These Japanese coffee shops are nostalgic places where seniors can destress and drink coffee in peace, rather than hustling and bustling hang-outs for youngsters.

Modern Coffee Shops in Japan

Although traditional coffee shops are a big part of coffee culture in Japan, there are modern coffee shops as well. Most cafés in Japan revolve around specialty brewing systems rather than drinks that are full of cream and sugar. 

These systems are great because they help the beans release their delicate flavors. That way, you can taste the full flavor and aroma of the beans.

Even tourists love drip coffee because it’s unique. And it’s one of the reasons why the coffee culture in Japan is memorable.

Japanese Vending Machines

You might be surprised to hear that vending machines are a big part of Japan’s coffee culture. That’s because vending machines in Japan typically serve canned coffee, a famous way of enjoying this beverage in Japan. 

Vending machines are widespread across the country and have been in Japan since 1960. Today, the canned coffee market continues to be on the rise, with vending machines offering an increasingly wide selection of canned coffee brands. 

These canned coffees are made from a flash or cold-brewed process, and there are also various flavor options, such as:

  • Plain black
  • With milk and sugar
  • With hazelnut or vanilla flavoring

They’re sort of reminiscent of the canned Starbucks drinks you might find for sale. However, these drinks are made by different companies.

Convenience Store Coffee

japan’s coffee

When most of us think of convenience store coffee, we think of brews that taste like the gasoline that comes out of the shop’s pumps. However, if you think convenience stores in Japan serve low-quality coffee, you’re wrong. 

Sure, buying a coffee from convenience stores will only cost you 100 to 300 yen. But, the quality is exceptional! 

Each convenience store has its own unique way of roasting and processing coffee beans. And, because it’s affordable, it attracts people in all age groups.

Not only can you find black coffee, but you can also get a cafe latte or iced coffee from convenience stores.

Top 5 Best Japanese Coffee Brands

If you’re convinced that you need to get your hands on some famous Japanese coffee, you’ve got to know who to shop from. Here are the top five brands worth checking out. 

1. Suntory Boss

For a good canned Japanese coffee, check out Suntory Boss. This brand uses flash-brewing at high temperatures to extract all the beans’ flavors. After brewing, the coffee is chilled at a very low temperature to lock in and maintain all the flavors. 

This brewing method makes this canned coffee taste smooth, fresh, and natural. And, because the beans are naturally grown, Suntory Boss guarantees no nasty chemicals are tainting your coffee’s flavor.

Suntory Boss’s bestseller is the Rainbow Mountain Blend. It perfectly balances sweetness and bitterness. It’s like drinking espresso but tastes way richer and bolder.

Pros

  • It’s canned, so it’s easy to pack with you when you’re on the go
  • It’s a good quality coffee at an affordable price, so it’s great for those on a budget
  • Flash-brewed, so it doesn’t leave a bitter aftertaste
  • Comes in various flavors, so you can purchase this coffee no matter what flavors you enjoy

Cons

  • Not that strong, so it might lack the caffeine content you need

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2. Georgia Coffee 

Another famous canned Japanese coffee brand is Georgia Coffee. Georgia Coffee is a Coca-Cola brand established in 1975. 

This brand takes pride in producing coffee that contains less sugar but which still has a unique sweetness. This coffee isn’t too strong, either. That makes this brand ideal for beginner drinkers. 

Pros

  • Has a balanced sweetness, so it’s good for those who are new to drinking coffee
  • Convenient packaging, so it’s easy to take with you on the go

Cons

  • Premium Japanese brand, so it’s expensive 
  • Has a low caffeine level, so it’s not ideal for those who want a big caffeine kick

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3. UCC

UCC is a famous Japanese instant coffee. What’s great about this brand is that they package their coffee in an airtight glass container. The container guarantees that the coffee grounds are fresh.

UCC beans are sourced from Ecuador or Brazil, giving you a full-body and bold flavor as you drink. The bitterness of the beans ensures you get the caffeine kick you need. 

UCC has a patented super aroma production method for extracting all the beans’ flavors. Thanks to this method, you get a velvety texture in every cup. 

Pros

  • It has a lot of caffeine, so it helps you stay awake and alert
  • It’s made using careful bean extraction, so it’s packed with all the right coffee flavors
  • It comes with airtight packaging, so the beans are kept fresh

Con

  • It can be too strong, so the caffeine might be too much for a beginner coffee drinker

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4. AGF Maxim

AGF Maxim is another famous Japanese instant coffee. The beans are from Vietnam and Colombia, and the roasting process ensures careful flavor extraction. Because it’s instant coffee, it’s easy to make a cup.

AGF Maxim specializes in producing signature blends with different flavors. This brand creates authentic Japanese coffee with bold flavors and a rich aroma. 

It’s just the coffee you need when you want your drinking experience to be smooth and creamy.

Pros

  • Made using a fire roasting process, so your cup has some unique flavors
  • It’s available in instant powder, so it’s easy to brew one, especially on the go
  • It’s strong enough to help you stay awake on busy days
  • It’s a versatile coffee, so you can enjoy it black or with cream and sugar

Con

  • Might be too intense for beginner coffee drinkers
  • Limited light roast options, so you might find it too dark if you enjoy sweeter coffee

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5. Maruyama Coffee 

maruyama coffee
Image: Maruyama Coffee 

Maruyama Coffee is famous for every cup’s rich, strong, and flavorful taste. The workers behind this brand ensure careful bean selection, roasting them using only the best techniques. 

Another notable thing about this coffee brand is that the owner is very hands-on. That way, you know you’re supporting a local business when you buy these beans. 

Plus, all beans are naturally grown, creating strong coffee flavors with natural sweetness. 

Pros

  • It’s naturally grown, so it’s healthy 
  • It contains natural sweetness, so it masks the bitterness of the coffee
  • It’s a full-bodied coffee, giving you smoothness in every cup

Con

  • It’s a premium Japanese bean, so it’s on the expensive side
  • Can be difficult to purchase because it’s not available on most mainstream shopping websites

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Choose the Best Japanese Coffee Brand

If you think you’ve tried the best coffee out there, wait until you try these Japanese coffee brands. They have a uniquely bold and rich flavor, giving you a balance of sweetness and bitterness. 

Also, you will love the wide range of canned coffee options, with each brand tasting unique. 

So, pick up one of these Japanese coffee brands! And, if you’ve still got questions about them, let us know in the comments!

Further Reading