There are different coffee-oriented establishments you can find in any given progressive country. The most common coffee shop concepts you're likely to encounter in a metropolis are cafés, coffee bars, coffeehouses, retail coffee shops, drive-thru coffee shops, coffee carts and trucks, and roasters. They're distinct from each other and have their specific purpose and function in coffee culture.
Japan is particularly known for its kissatens. These are Japanese-style tearooms that also double as coffee shops. However, do not confuse a kissaten with a café. The latter is pretty close to a full-service restaurant and typically serves alcohol. Meanwhile, a kissaten is generally a quiet gathering place where patrons can get a cup of coffee or tea and a light meal, usually a sandwich or a baked good.
Japanese kissatens have been around since the 1920s. Their principal focus is on coffee craftsmanship, which equates to choosing artisanal roasting, brewing, and even serving coffee.
In the 1980s, a new coffee shop concept was introduced to the Japanese public. Doutor Coffee entered the Japanese coffee scene and subsequently made its mark in Japanese coffee culture by opening the first European-style standing coffee shop.
Doutor Coffee's Story
Following the coffee scarcity brought on by World War II and its aftermath, the Japanese market saw a steady increase in the beverage's supply and demand. By 1980, Japan was enjoying the fruits of its economic boom in the '60s and '70s. Hiromichi Toriba foresaw the growing needs of the country's workforce and was inspired to meet its requirement of more convenient "caffeination" befitting its fast-paced urban lifestyle. That's why on April 18, 1980, he opened the first Doutor Coffee in Harajuku, Tokyo. The store's size was only nine square meters, and it set the price of its coffee then at 150 yen, deeming this a non-prohibitive cost that would allow customers to enjoy their coffee daily.
As it turned out, offering simple and inexpensive coffee-to-go was a stroke of genius. As a result, Doutor Coffee quickly grew in number and renown. It has become a famous brand and has expanded to more than 1,300 stores. Its outlets are found not only in Japan but also in other Asian countries.
Name and Concept Back Story
You might be wondering how the name "Doutor" came about. It's not Japanese, so where could it have originated? Founder Hiromichi Toriba went to Sao Paolo, Brazil in the '60s to learn all about harvesting, selecting, and roasting coffee. During his studies abroad, his route frequently took him to a street called Doutor Pinto Fereis, named after a prominent Brazilian figure. That was his inspiration for the name of his company. "Doutor" is Portuguese for "doctor." It just so happens to be a word he associated with fond memories of the beginning of his career in coffee.
Meanwhile, he got the idea for a European-style standing coffee shop from his time in Paris. Some Japanese coffee roasters were invited to tour Europe at that time. Toriba had the habit of waking up before the others, so he would often stroll the streets by himself. One time in Paris, he saw a group of locals at a Metro station, just standing around while enjoying their coffee with a sandwich or a pastry. Knowing that Japan was in the same path of progress, Toriba predicted that his own country's workforce would display similar behavior shortly - hurrying for work in the morning with very little time to eat breakfast properly. The solution was right in that scene: a convenient and affordable option for people to grab their morning coffee and a quick bite on their way to work.
Doutor Coffee is listed in the Tokyo Stock Exchange, specializing in coffee roasting and coffee shop franchising. In the '90s, Doutor Coffee's success was further evidenced by the acquisition of its own coffee plantations in Hawai'i. The name itself is identified as the country's most popular and most lasting coffee shop chain.
It was also in the '90s when an influx of international chains like Starbucks started sprouting all over Japan. To remain competitive, Doutor Coffee had to adjust its business model. But the novelty that sprang upon the rest of the world was already a familiar concept to Japan. Upon the advent of third level coffee culture at the beginning of the millennium, the relevance of traditional kissatens was just emphasized and reinforced. If anybody knew how to make specialty artisan coffee, it was the Japanese.
Doutor Coffee itself is known for its special way of roasting coffee beans. Most roasters use hot air, but this has a way of taking away the original flavor of coffee. So instead, Doutor uses open flame roasting, which takes three times as long as hot-air roasting, but this lends its coffee a more fragrant aroma and a richer taste.
Doutor Coffee's continued growth led to its merger with Nippon Restaurant System in 2007, in the process, creating Doutor Nichires Co., Ltd. The new company engages both in the roasting, processing, and sale of coffee as well as in the operation of restaurants. The coffee-oriented segment of Doutor Nichires also runs the Hoshino Coffee and Excelsior Caffe chains, which provide more elaborate menus.
While Doutor Coffee's coffee products have been more commercialized and are more accessible to the public, Excelsior Caffe and Hoshino Coffee also have their own blends that their customers can buy from the physical stores or online. Excelsior Caffe sells the following:
- Excelsior Blend
- Excelsior Espresso
- Kilimanjaro Kibo
- Organic Guatemala
- Charcoal Coffee
Meanwhile, Hoshino Coffee boasts three main blends: Hoshino, Hikoboshi, and Orihime. You can learn more about them from this article comparing Hoshino Coffee with Sapporo Coffee Kan.
The best coffee companies pride themselves on their careful bean selection process, which is undoubtedly true for Doutor Coffee. It makes sure that only the beans that satisfy its requirements are chosen. Besides sourcing its beans from its own plantations in Hawai'i, it also imports from 11 other countries with the best coffee-growing zones. Once they've been picked, the selected beans head on to Doutor Coffee's roasting plant.
Different bean types have different flavors. By judiciously blending different beans, unique great-tasting coffee can be achieved. Blending can be done pre-mix (before roasting) or post-mix (after roasting). Pre-mix blending must be skillfully and knowledgeably done since beans come with varying composition and moisture content, making them difficult to roast already mixed. But with know-how, it can be done to produce a well-balanced and full-flavored coffee blend.
Doutor Coffee sets itself apart from other coffee brands in several ways, including its roasting process. Roasting is a crucial step in coffee production. Most coffee companies use hot air for roasting as it's more efficient. Doutor, however, chose to take a different route by using open flame, which takes three times longer. Nonetheless, this method more thoroughly ensures that the beans are sufficiently roasted.
Open-flame roasting is typically adopted by smaller artisanal coffee shops since the process only allows about five to 20 kilograms of beans at a time. However, a huge brand like Doutor Coffee needed to find a way to make open-flame roasting more practical, hence its innovation that allows it to roast large batches of beans on an open flame.
In Doutor Coffee, roasting is overseen by a master roaster. This definitely suggests that the process is more complicated than what you might expect. It involves properly weighing the beans and adjusting to the right roasting temperature as well as checking on the condition of the fire, the amount of water used, the internal bean temperature, the ambient temperature, and the humidity.
Maintaining freshness is another critical factor in ensuring the high quality of Doutor Coffee's products. Since coffee starts to lose its flavor about two to three weeks after roasting, the beans delivered to the different outlets are frozen to ensure freshness. Because of this, a computer program is used to determine the usual coffee amount required by an outlet based on its sales. This is done to ensure that it doesn't get over-supplied.
Another rule Doutor Coffee outlets have for ensuring freshness is to discard all remaining coffee 30 minutes after its batch was brewed. This way, customers can always count on their coffee being freshly brewed.
Doutor Coffee Products
If you like the taste of Doutor Coffee drinks and would like to enjoy them at home, you can buy the brand's different products for preparation and consumption elsewhere other than the shops. Some of its best-sellers are the following:
- Doutor Instant Coffee Fragrant Delicious Cup 120 grams - This is freeze-dried, medium-deep roast, instant coffee made with beans sourced from Vietnam. This bag makes about 60 delicious cups, either hot or cold.
- Doutor Café au Lait Mild Instant Coffee 10 Sticks - Each stick makes one cup of hot or cold coffee. It has a mellow taste that perfectly balances the flavor of milk and coffee.
- Doutor Direct Fire Roasted (Umai) Ground Coffee 18 Packs - This package contains 18 single-serving coffee packets. Each packet has ground coffee in a filter bag. The blend, which has a fragrant aroma as well as a smooth and mellow taste, is made with beans from Brazil and Nicaragua.
- Doutor Enjoy Aroma Variety Drip Pack Ground Coffee 8 Packs - This package contains eight single-serving coffee packets with ground coffee in a filter bag. There are two packets for each of the four premium blends included. These are:
- Mellow Blend with beans from Brazil and Colombia.
- Aroma Blend with beans from Brazil and Colombia.
- Mocha Blend with beans from Brazil and Ethiopia.
- Kilimanjaro Blend with beans from Brazil and Tanzania.
The instant variety is easy enough to prepare, but the drip-on kind takes some know-how. So here are some simple instructions on how to drip-brew Doutor Coffee.
- Tear open one packet and take out the filter bag containing ground coffee.
- Tear off the top of the filter and hook the holder handles over the rim of your cup.
- Slowly and carefully pour hot water over the coffee grounds in a circular motion a little at a time.
- Continue pouring until the cup is almost full. The level will go down once the filter is removed.
If you prefer something even more convenient and ready to drink, Doutor Coffee also has bottled coffee drinks available. The most popular of these are the café au lait, the black, and the salted caramel.
Doutor Coffee was a revolutionary concept when it was founded. A grab-and-go coffee place was created in anticipation of a rising need, but through the years, it has evolved into a solid presence in Japanese coffee culture, adapting to the times but at the same time staying true to its mission.