Coffee in Japan is a relatively new phenomenon but it has certainly found its way into the culture. Starbucks in Japan is pretty easy to find in major metropolitan areas, and I can say with certainty that the food is terrific, and the dark-mocha frappacinos are worth it.¹ But coffee in Japan is also commonly found in small cans avaiable at the near-universal vending machines, under several name brand coffees such as UCC and Boss. Canned coffee in Japan tastes noticeably different than the US to me: sweeter, creamier and with less coffee flavor than what you might get in the US, so if you need a caffeine fix, it’s not the best source. However, for flavor, variety (and convenience) it is great.
My personal favorite is Boss Coffee.
My story with Boss Coffee began all the way back in 2005 during my first trip to Japan. Being a Seattlite and major coffee drinker, I was having some withdrawal problems there because I didn’t know my way around, and Starbucks was less widespread at the time. In short, I was grumpy and culturally disoriented. My wife introduced to Boss Coffee from a vending machine one afternoon, and I loved it. The cans looked cool, and I was finally to have some coffee again.
Interestingly, Boss Coffee comes out with new cans frequently as they sell a variety of flavors:
I always felt that the man in the cans looks like a young Sean Connery to me. Many of the cans and flavors taste similar to one another, so there really isn’t that much variety, but I used to collect them all whenever I visited Japan yearly. After a while, the collection grew to 30+ cans, but I finally decided to recycle most of them as they were gathering dust and taking up space.
Still, every time I am in Japan, I always check to see if new Boss flavors are out. I was really happy to see that Boss Coffee (the can on the right) is sold here in the Pacific Northwest again at my local Asian supermarket after being unavailable for years.
I am not the only Western fan of Boss Coffee either:
If you’re heading to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, don’t hesitate to stop and pick up a can or two of Boss Coffee. If you’re overseas, keep an eye out for Boss at your local Asian supermarket. 😄☕️🥫
¹ Fair warning: etiquette at Starbucks in Japan is different in the US, especially in more crowded shops where you’re just trying to avoid colliding into people.