I love coffee. I’m sure everyone does. But sorry, I’m really a naysayer when it comes to instant coffee. I’ve tried a lot of instant coffee sold in stick package with convincing words like ‘great aroma taste’ or ‘fresh flavor’, when its actually very plain, or dull in taste. It’s a no brainer to know that the only way to get the fresh coffee taste is well, from a fresh grind coffee bean.
Most convenience store in japan acknowledge this very well, as people commute to workplace will most probably make a quick stop to a nearby convenience store in the early morning, buying coffee to get in the right mood or a good kick start. But as mentioned earlier, instant or canned coffees aren’t really that fresh, while most cafés aren’t still open in the early morning. And if it does, it’s quite pricey.
So they come up with a pretty clever idea. A self-service coffee machine. It is a brilliant idea, and was actually the biggest hit product since the late 2013.
Its not the cheap household coffee maker you’ll see in appliance store, but rather a custom made espresso machine. Most major convenience stores (7 Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson) have their own version of coffee machine. Some of the machine has its own coffee grinder attached, so you’ll know right away that it’s freshly grinded the right from the moment you push the button. I’m just going to explain the café sold in Family Mart, because it’s the nearest one from my home.
The coffee machine is very easy to spot when you enter the store, as it’s usually placed next to the cashier counter. You can’t just place your tumbler and push the button right away, or the cashier will stare at you with suspicion. There is a tag with pictures of the coffee placed either at the counter or near the cake and cookies section. Take which one you prefer and bring it at the cash counter. If you can speak Japanese, you could just say which one you would like to buy. Some have different cup sizes and some are sold in either hot or cold. After making the payment, the cashier will usually give you a paper cup. You can just show your tumbler if you want to use your own. Take it to the espresso machine, place it under the nozzle, and push the button. The machine will take no longer than 1 minute to finish processing the beverage. There is a tray of sweetener and cup lid next to it, if you want to take one. There’s no limit on how much you can take, so you could take a couple bit more (but not too much) if you ran out of sugar at home.
Bear in mind that the instruction are written in Japanese, make sure you push the right button or you’ll end up having the wrong beverage. If you’re still unsure, you can just ask the cashier to push the button for you. Other store, such as 7 eleven only have hot and ice with regular and large size option, while Lawson have a wider range of menus, from coffee, tea, and even green tea latte, and even sell their own version of tumbler. But for me, my favorite will always be the Family Mart café. It combines both low price and great taste, sometimes better than those sold in at the coffeehouse chain. Particularly I will go with the café frappe in the hot summer and a hot café latte in most other seasons.
In a nutshell, it’s a good substitute if you’re a regular coffee consumer with a tight budget, as it’s cheap, convenient, and most of all, good value for your bucks.
Guest post by Izzuddin.