Have you tried Japanese coffee? It has a distinctively smooth taste with less bitterness than Western coffee and comes in a variety of formats, including canned.
Coffee is a multi-billion dollar market in Japan, with popular Japanese brands exporting their distinctive blend across the world.
In this article, we’ll profile Japan’s leading coffee brands and share the best Japanese coffee available on Amazon.
The Japanese LOVE coffee
Japanese coffee just has to be tried because the Japanese are a nation of coffee drinkers! Coffee is the most-consumed non-alcoholic beverage in Japan.
Coffee is enjoyed hot or cold and is so popular that it is even threatening the revered tea sector.
A jaw-dropping 400 million tones of coffee beans are imported and consumed in Japan each year.
Japan imports its coffee from major coffee producers like Brazil, Columbia, and Ethiopia.
Coffee produces thrive in Japan, satisfying customer demand with a dizzying array of coffee products, including innumerable bottled and canned coffees that are consumed on the go.
A quick history of coffee in Japan
The Japanese have a lot of experience in roasting and brewing coffee.
Coffee has been consumed in Japan since it was introduced by Dutch and Portuguese traders in the 17th century.
Coffee was consumed by the Japanese in tavern-like venues called “kissaten”, which attracted the artistic and business classes.
These establishments attracted a cross-section of society and flourished in the 19th century.
As Japan became increasingly exposed to Western influence, its coffee consumption sped up.
Best Japanese coffee (including the best Japanese coffee available on Amazon)
The biggest Japanese coffee brands are going global as people from around the world savor the great coffee taste.
Increased coffee exports from Japan mean you can buy many popular Japanese coffee brands on Amazon.
Here are the best ones to try.
1. Blendy Coffee
Blendy is one of Japan’s most popular coffee brands, with millions of Japanese households waking up to a steaming cup of this supermarket coffee every day.
This fresh coffee, known for its smooth and mild taste is made using a proprietary roasting method that boosts the aroma and flavor of your brew.
You can buy Blendy Coffee everywhere, and it comes in a variety of formats, including regular filter coffee, hand-drip coffee, instant coffee, and canned liquid coffee.
Blendy Special Blend Single Serve Hand Drip Coffee
About Blendy Coffee
Ajinomoto General Foods (AGF) is a Japanese food company that produces Blendy Coffee.
It was founded in 1954 and grew from sales of Maxwell coffee and other instant coffee brands that the Japanese could enjoy at home.
|Headquarters||Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan|
Powder stick coffees
AGF perfected a controlled roasting technique that maximizes the flavor of the coffee it produces while minimizing bitter and sour tastes.
Their mild-tasting coffee became extremely popular and is often enjoyed with AGF creamers.
Blendy Coffee first entered the market in 1977 in an instant coffee format.
From there, its popularity grew, with AGF producing Japan’s first liquid coffee under the Blendy brand in 1988. Stick coffee was later introduced in 2002.
Is Blendy Coffee worth trying?
Yes. The Blendy taste is distinctive and has none of the bitter aftertaste or coating on your tongue that some coffees carry.
You can enjoy this smooth Japanese coffee in a variety of formats and it is exported around the world, so you should be able to get your hands on a box!
2. BOSS Coffee by Suntory
If you’re in the States, you have probably come across the BOSS brand of Japanese canned coffee in a variety of flavors.
BOSS coffee is one of Japan’s first and most famous canned coffee brands and has retained its edge and market share over the 30 years it has been around.
BOSS coffee is a flash brew coffee that is quickly cooled to lock in the flavor.
You’ll find this ready-to-drink beverage in vending machines and convenience stores all over Japan, with flavors that include cold black coffee and café au lait.
BOSS Coffee au lait
About BOSS Coffee by Suntory
The Japanese food and beverage conglomerate Suntory makes BOSS Coffee.
The company is over 100 years old and originally started as an importer of Western wines and liquors.
Founder Shinjiro Torii’s company also produced the first Japanese whisky.
|Headquarters||Minato City, Tokyo, Japan|
|Products||Ready to drink coffee |
Canned flash brew coffee in a variety of blends
The company diversified into the FMCG and food and beverage sectors in the 1980s.
BOSS canned coffee was introduced in the 1990s with the ‘Super Blend’ variety. BOSS Coffee has reached the US market where it is feted as a cult brand.
Is BOSS Coffee any good?
Yes. BOSS Coffee delivers a decent black coffee. It lacks the bitterness that some Western coffee lovers enjoy because that is the Japanese way.
It contains real coffee from beans sourced in Colombia, Ethiopia, and Brazil.
Even though BOSS Coffee lasts about two years, it contains no additives, artificial flavors, or preservatives. And yes, there is a decaf version!
3. Key Coffee キーコーヒー株式会社
Key Coffee is one of Japan’s leading coffee brands with a wide range of coffee products for the domestic coffee drinker.
It is a refined product that is produced with care using the finest coffee beans sourced from around the world.
The Japanese extremely respect this Japanese coffee brand as it has been producing coffee in Japan for over 100 years.
Key Coffee Special Blend Single Serve Hand Drip Coffee
About Key Coffee
This is one of Japan’s oldest coffee companies with a century of coffee importing, roasting and processing experience.
Bunji Shibata found the company in 1920 in Yokohama, roasting coffee beans in his grocery store.
The business was called Kimura Shoten, and later Kimura Coffee Store.
He created a signature ‘coffee syrup’ which became a hit product and kicked of large-scale coffee production.
|Headquarters||Nishi-shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan|
|Products||Home brewed coffee|
Professional coffee products
Tokyo and Osaka offices followed and in 1928, the ‘Key’ brand name was adopted. Shibata sold cans of dried powdered coffee and fermented lactose for domestic use in the 1930s.
Later, the business suffered significant losses in WWII due to bomb damages and requisitioning of its assets. However, Key Coffee experienced a resurgence in the 1950s.
Key Coffee championed popular coffee innovations like instant coffee, canned coffee and iced coffee. Key Coffee also developed the popular DRIP ON pour-over extraction system.
Is Key Coffee the best Japanese coffee?
Yes. Key Coffee is a contender for the best Japanese coffee because of its heritage, quality and innovation.
This coffee is the type and quality the Japanese would serve to their parents or esteemed guests at home. It is pretty mainstream, but remains a respected brand.
4. UCC Ueshima Coffee Company Ltd. 上島珈琲株式会社
UCC or ‘Ueshima Coffee Company’ is another of Japan’s leading coffee producers.
It covers everything from growing coffee on its many international plantations to supplying and distributing its popular coffee and tea products.
The company is privately held by the Ueshima family and headquartered in Kobe.
UCC Gold Specials Rich Blend
About Ueshima Coffee Company
The UCC was founded 90 years ago by Tadao Ueshima and is led by his descendants today.
The business started as a general store called Ueshima Tadao Shoten.
Ueshima’s store specialized in selling Western products, including coffee, which was extremely popular, leading Ueshima to focus on importing and selling it only.
|Headquarters||Minatojima-Nakamachi Chuo-ku, Kobe-Shi, Hyogo|
|Products||Ground coffee |
By the 1950s, Ueshima Tadao Shoten had become the Ueshima Coffee Co., Ltd.
The company opened coffee shops throughout Japan and became famous for producing the world’s first canned coffee called UCC Coffee with Milk in 1969.
The UCC brand has international reach with offices in Europe and Asia.
It also expanded into coffee production purchasing plantations in Jamaica and Hawaii and acquired the European coffee company, United Coffee.
What is special about UCC Coffee?
UCC Coffee has global reach and owns many coffee plantations, meaning the company has exception control of the quality of its coffee beans.
It is much more mass-produced with a stronger taste than other Japanese brands. The canned coffee with milk remains a popular but strong choice.
5. POKKA SAPPORO Food & Beverage Ltd. ポッカサッポロフード&ビバレッジ株式会社
POKKA Sapporo is a Japanese food and beverage company that specializes in producing canned and bottled coffee and flavored teas.
It is Japan’s largest brewer of such drinks. It is also a leading distributor of vending machine products, widening the reach of its popular canned coffee.
POKKA Sapporo Black Unsweetened Coffee
About POKKA SAPPORO Food & Beverage Ltd.
POKKA SAPPORO Food & Beverage was initially founded as the Nikka Lemon Corporation in the late 1950s.
The company was setup to sell synthetic lemon juice, but fell foul of the Fair Trade Commission, who ruled that their product was misleading, denting the company’s reputation.
|Headquarters||Minatojima-Nakamachi Chuo-ku, Kobe-Shi, Hyogo|
|Products||Canned coffee |
Vending machine products
Synthetic lemon flavoring
So the Nikka Lemon Corporation reinvented itself as POKKA coffee, developing a canned coffee drink that was popular in the 1970s.
POKKA then co-developed vending machines with Sankyo Electric to sell their cold and hot beverages. Its products also included a lemon tea drink and slow-cooked soup.
Is POKKA Coffee good?
POKKA’s canned coffee is a vending machine staple.
In the pressured Japanese workday, many office workers will get a hot or cold canned coffee from this company because it is quick, easy and suitably strong.
POKKA is not the finest Japanese coffee, but it is a big brand with mainstream appeal.
Best Japanese Coffee FAQs
What is canned coffee?
Canned coffee, known as ‘kan kōhī’ (缶コーヒー) is a popular pre-brewed coffee beverage that is sold in cans. The product originated in Japan, but has spread throughout Southeast Asia and the world. In Japan, companies sell their canned coffee cold or hot in vending machines or convenience stores.
What is flash brewed coffee?
Flash-brewed coffee or Japanese-style iced coffee is a coffee production method that is used to produce Japan’s canned coffee for several decades. Hot water is poured over ground beans in a filter, with the hot coffee dripped over ice for instant cooling.
Is there domestic coffee production in Japan?
Japan grows its own coffee beans and gained expertise in coffee cultivation through the thousands of Japanese workers who went to work on Brazilian plantations. Tadao Ueshima started the domestic coffee industry in the 1930s and in 2020, at least 3.25 thousand tonnes of organic coffee beans were produced. Coffee is mainly grown in the in the Ogasawara island chain where conditions are favorable. However, domestic production cannot meet the insatiable demand of Japanese coffee drinkers, keeping coffee imports high.
Coffee is a big part of contemporary Japanese culture, and the leading brands are well worth trying. The smooth, slow roasted taste of Japanese coffee is definitely distinctive.
Hardcore Japanese coffee fans can now get these legendary brands online from Amazon and other online retailers. So give Starbucks a break and relax with a cup or can of a delicious Japanese brew!
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