Widely publicized as one of Japans most practical quirks; vending machines lurk around most corners. Everywhere. In my first few days here they were an absolute wonder – not needing to speak to a person to purchase a drink, not needing to feel awkward struggling with my new foreign coins. They still are actually. Not too long ago I climbed up Mt Atago with friends – its the tallest mountain in Kyoto, and there at the top we were welcomed by a beautiful shrine and some vending machines.
Now we could be talking about how one can purchase alcohol/cigarettes/used undies (not really, that one is very illegal actually!) from vending machines as well as fresh vegetables – but – today let’s address Japans least controversial energy source – Coffee.
There’s no shame behind my admitting that I’m a lover of brands, mainly food/drink brands. I cherish my Branston and Heinz, I long for Galaxy and Dairy Milk. Coffee is no exception – for me it has to be BOSS. I mean, they have a fantastic image. Tommy Lee Cooper is the face of Boss Coffee, TOMMY LEE COOPER. And their tagline? “SUNTORY BOSS is the boss of them all since 1992”. Suntory has been selling drinks in Japan since the 1800s, they are one of the well established huuuuuge beasts of Japanese companies which you will probably have heard of – such as Yamaha, Suzuki, and Asahi. Besides all of that, their Cafe au Lait just happens to be my preferred choice because they add all those extras which make it irresistibly terrible for your health and more like a dessert.
See here above, two vending machines right next to a convenience store. You might think “Well that makes sense, Rachel, because when the shop closes you can just pop over to the vending machine at all hours”, but you’d be completely wrong. Most convenience stores are open 24 hours, I say most but I don’t think I’ve ever come across one that actually closes, ever. There are probably tonnes of reasons to pop vending machines right next to a store which sells the same products, we could even make it a discussion if you like. Anyway, I want you to see some of the other coffee varieties which are available here, please see below.
So here you can see not just canned coffee but coffee in bottles and those plastic cups on the left – they have a foil top covered by a plastic lid and an opening for your straw, so they are quite nice to drink from if you don’t fancy a can. There are coffees of every nature including soy milk, unsweetened, black, white, espresso, latte etc. The coffee doesn’t have to be cold even, as you can buy hot coffee in a can/bottle from vending machines or the convenience stores too.
Cold coffee is extremely popular in Japan, it is consumed all year round – just as ice cream is eaten even in winter! Every cafe serves iced coffee, and there are sachets and concentrates available at any store so one can have cold coffee at home.
So it was to my absolute surprise that a London based cold brew coffee company – Sandows – was breaking through the hundreds of coffee brands to make it into a fancy Japanese magazine. An old school friend, Luke Suddards, and his business parter Hugh Duffie appeared – it seems just a little while ago – on my facebook feed telling everyone about their new business, and now Sandows has turned global.
Did they know how big coffee is in Japan?? Did Luke know what they might be up against?
“There’s a big coffee scene […] in fact cold brew pretty much originates from Japan!”
I asked Luke about the company, I wanted to know how their coffee was different, how they’d managed to reinvent something which I’d felt saturated the Japanese market. He explained…
“Cold brew is in fact quite different to iced coffee as it’s brewed without any hot water; this means it takes much longer but you end up with a much less acidic, sweeter cup. In contrast an iced coffee is an espresso which is brewed hot and then cooled down and added to the milk; cooling down coffee once its been heated provokes much more bitterness so you will find that most iced coffees are loaded with milk and sugar etc to cover that up. Our process allows you to drink it without any additives”
Well then, after gushing on about the Boss Cafe au Lait milk and sugar filled goodness I’m really interested in trying this newfangled brew. If I can enjoy a good cold coffee minus the terrible stuff then I’d be much better off. Sandows isn’t in the vending machines or the combini yet, though, I really rather hope to see it in some of my favorite cafes here, because good coffee is worth sitting down for.
I’m now looking forward to traveling home to England for Christmas.
See some of you very soon!
Love Rach xoxox
PS here’s Sandows’ website http://www.sandowslondon.co.uk/
And tumbler for more pictures http://sandowslondon.tumblr.com/