I come not only from the Land Down Under, but the Land Where Everything Is Expensive, and a cup of coffee, even at McDonald’s is over ¥400. That meant that when I came to Japan and discovered it was not just the Land of the Rising Sun, but also the Land of ¥100 Konbini Coffee (コーヒー), I decided then and there I couldn’t possibly return to Australia.
For this week’s column I decided to taste-test and review one of the most popular items that konbini are now famous for: freshly brewed コーヒー. Now the good thing about konbini コーヒー is that it’s available 24/7 and often costs almost a quarter the price at chains like Starbucks.
Although the weather is warming up considerably, I drink hot (ホット) コーヒー every morning no matter what season it is. Sometimes later in the day I like an iced (アイス) コーヒー, but I thought for the purpose of taste-testing I would stick with ホット so as to limit variables and have a more consistent result.
My personal preference is 7-Eleven and that will continue for habit’s sake, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised by コーヒー at the other stores. I also thought after much deliberation to limit it to the top three, with a gold, silver and bronze medal being awarded respectively.
I feel like a traitor… 7-Eleven. For a morning コーヒー I feel this is the best as it’s the strongest and also the blackest of the three. I like bitter tasting コーヒー and this definitely hits the spot. If you’re anything like me and easily affected by caffeine, choose the regular, not the large size. It’s a heavy type of コーヒー with a smoky flavour that some people might even describe as burnt. Unfortunately, you are left with quite a bitter aftertaste.
Second place was awarded to Lawson’s. The great thing about this one is that the staff actually make it for you behind the counter, just like a real café. They use Arabica beans and the コーヒー is also Rainforest Alliance Certified. It has a smoky aroma and with the first sip is quite heavy, but this is followed quickly by an almost buttery taste that reminds you of milk chocolate. It also doesn’t leave you with an aftertaste like the 7-Eleven one does.
And… in first place, being awarded the Gold Medal for konbini コーヒー is… Family Mart! Family Mart also boasts three sizes: small, medium and large so you can choose just how high you want to be for the rest of your day. The コーヒー is light and buttery with a rich smell and a fruity taste.
So, there you have it, konbini コーヒー!
These are simply my own findings and you, of course, may totally disagree. It’s all a matter of personal taste and I encourage you to get down to your nearest konbini and try the コーヒー for yourself. Why not share your favorites in the comments?