What Makes Japanese Coffee Special?

by Courtney Thompson

Coffee isn’t just an energizing drink, but a unique aspect of many different cultures. You may not have considered how coffee differs in Japan, but there are a lot of things that make Japanese coffee special! From the brewing process to the social aspect, Japanese coffee is a very different experience from any other coffee you’ve had. Whether you’re a new coffee drinker or a coffee lover, Japanese coffee is worth trying!

 A group of business people are chatting and drinking coffee

Japan's Coffee Culture

As the fourth largest consumer of coffee in the world, Japan has developed its own practices for brewing and enjoying the delicious drink. 

Japanese coffee culture is not so different from Japanese tea culture—both emphasize the enjoyment of the natural flavors of the drink, and both sometimes have a formal element in social settings. Teaware is a large part of drinking tea with friends, and coffeeware can be the same way! Traditional coffee mugs and saucers, like the Mashikoyaki Coffee Mug and Mashikoyaki Small Plate, are beautiful and functional pieces inspired by Edo period pottery. The two are designed to go together and have a simple and rustic design that goes perfectly with anyone’s home décor! You can find these coffee accessories on Bokksu in three different colors—white, light blue, or black—if you want to elevate your at-home coffee experience.

Mashikoyaki Coffee Mug

Another unique aspect of Japanese coffee can be found in vending machines across the country. Canned coffee is extremely popular in Japan and has been around since the 1960s. As a result, the Japanese canned coffee market has a lot of different competitors, and you’ll often find several different brands of canned coffee in a single Japanese vending machine. Japanese canned coffee is typically made from cold or flash-brewed coffee, and it comes black, with sugar and milk, or with some different flavorings like vanilla and hazelnut.

A Unique Cold-brewing Method: Flash-brewing

Iced coffee is one of the most popular types of coffee in Japan, but it isn’t the same iced coffee you may be used to. Japanese iced coffee is made using a unique cold-brewing method known as flash-brewing or flash-chilling. Rather than steeping coffee grounds in cold water for ten or more hours as traditional cold-brewing entails, the Japanese method involves brewing hot coffee directly over ice cubes. Brewing coffee this way is much faster, taking as little as ten minutes, and creates a smooth flavor with a lighter body than standard cold-brewed coffee. Since the coffee drips slowly and immediately hits the ice, it is quickly chilled before the ice can start to melt and before bitter flavors begin to develop.

If you’re interested in making Japanese iced coffee at home, all you need are coffee grounds, a standard hot coffee maker, and some ice cubes. Japanese iced coffee focuses on removing impurities from the water to create an especially smooth brew derived from the coffee grounds. You can use a pour over coffee drip to make hot or flash-brewed coffee, and it’s reusable, making it a great investment for yourself and the environment! Simply set up the drip filter over a glass or container filled with ice, and brew your drip coffee as normal. If you want to enjoy your coffee utilizing the techniques of  Japanese coffee culture, go easy on add-ins such as whipped cream. In Japan, it’s common for people to drink black coffee to truly enjoy the flavors of the coffee itself.

Mt.Fuji Coffee Dripper

Japanese Coffee Shops

Japanese coffee shops also offer a different experience than coffee shops in other countries. While there are some American coffee chains like Starbucks in Japan, the most popular types of Japanese coffee shops are known as kissatens, which means independent coffee shops. These specialty coffee shops don’t offer a wide variety of flavor options like American ones do.  The average Japanese coffee shop tends to have a more reserved atmosphere.


If you love coffee and want to explore more ways to enjoy it, try out some of these Japanese coffee brewing techniques and add some Japanese flair to your collection of coffee accessories! And if you visit Japan, be sure to check out the local coffee shops and grab some Japanese canned coffee from a vending machine! Pair your coffee with delicious treats like fluffy Japanese bread. For our adventurous foodies, try our monthly Japanese snack subscription that delivers authentic snacks from Japan straight to your door!

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