And now the options for coffee-connoisseurs expanding too
WITH AN increasing number of Japanese opting for coffee over the more traditional tea, coffee shops all over the country are offering unique services to draw them in, such as reserving high-end coffee beans for particular customers and allowing customers to grind their own beans.
There’s even a place that offers a monthly all-you-can-drink coffee “subscription”.
Grand Cru Cafe Ginza is a coffee shop in the Ginza Six shopping complex that opened in Chuo Ward, Tokyo, in April last year. The cafe sells roasted coffee beans stored in wine bottles, each of them labelled with information such as the coffee’s country of origin and name of the farm where the beans were cultivated.
Aiming to offer “cups of supreme coffee,” the beans sold by the cafe must meet strict standards in terms of their origin, cultivation methods, selection, transportation and roast.
Bottles range in price from 10,000 yen to 120,000 yen Bt2,940-Bt35,300) excluding tax and each bottle makes five or six cups of coffee.
A sign promotes Coffee Mafia’s 3,000 yenpermonth allyoucandrink service at its branch in Iidabashi, Tokyo. /Japan NewsYomiuri
“Experienced baristas carefully handle coffee beans of the highest quality. I hope customers enjoy their special tastes and aromas,” says Takuro Tomita, the general manager of the salon.
Some cafes let you feel like you’re a barista, as they allow customers to make their own coffee. At Drip & Drop Coffee Supply Sanjo in Kyoto, for example, customers can grind coffee beans themselves using a manual mill. Customers then choose one of three coffee-making methods, such as drip filter, and make their own coffee.
The price of a cup starts at 450 yen including tax.
According to the Tokyo-based All Japan Coffee Association, consumption of coffee beans in Japan reached a record high of about 470,000 tons in 2016, up by more than 100,000 tons from 20 years ago.
Consumption temporarily declined in 2011 after the Great East Japan Earthquake, but it’s been increasing since then.
In recent years, freshly made coffee sold at convenience stores have proved popular, while a flood of specialised “third wave” coffee shops, which pay special attention to bean origin and roasting methods, have appeared. This has further expanded the scope of the coffee market.
Stores offering a flat-rate subscription service have also emerged.
At Coffee Mafia’s Iidabashi cafe, which opened in mid-January in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, customers who pay a monthly fee of 3,000 yen can enjoy one cup of coffee per visit as many times as they like. Members can visit another store in the same chain as well.
“I got the idea from flat-rate music and video streaming services,” store manager Koichiro Okumura explains.
At Alpha Beta Coffee Club in Tokyo’s Jiyugaoka district, membership involves a monthly fee of 9,000 yen. A single cup of coffee usually costs 500 yen, but members can drink as much as they like. They can also choose from three kinds of coffee beans, which change every month. The cafe is equipped with Wi-Fi, and many people bring their laptops and work there.
Spacee Coffee utilises restaurants that are only open at night and rents them during the day on weekdays in six locations, including the Shinjuku and Shibuya districts of Tokyo. Each Spacee Coffee store is equipped with Wi-Fi and visitors can get a cup of coffee for just 50 yen if they register as a member for free. Customers can stay at each store for up to an hour per visit.
“There are a wide variety of coffee shops, ranging from those focusing on high-end products to those targeting ordinary people, which is unique to Japan,” says Yoko Kawaguchi, author of “Coffee People”, a cafe-related books.