Earlier, I published an article about the major Japanese tea manufacturers and their best sellers on the Japanese Green Tea Co. blog. The article became very popular, so it was only a matter of time before I decided to do the same from a coffee standpoint.
Towards the end of the 1960s, there was a significant change in how the Japanese purchased drinks because vending machines were installed in various places throughout the country.
In fact, I’ve already posted an article about how the vending machine changed Japan’s coffee culture, where I also talked about a few popular canned coffee brands. So today I want to present to you these brands and their best sellers.
- UCC (Ueshima Coffee Co.)
- BOSS Coffee (made by Suntory)
- Flash Brew - Cold Black Coffee
- Flash Brew - Cold Café Au Lait
- Rainbow Mountain Blend
- Zeitaku Bito
- Premium Boss The Latte (Sugar-Free)
- GEORGIA Emerald Mountain Blend
- GEORGIA Classic Original
- GEORGIA Roastery Black
- GEORGIA Lattenista Café Latte
- Fire by Kirin
- DyDo Drinco
- Wonda by Asahi
With so many to choose from, you are guaranteed to find one you like!
In 1933, Tadao Ueshima - "the father of coffee in Japan" founded UCC (Ueshima Coffee Co.) and established the industry's first roasting plants, production facilities, coffee shops, plantations, and global networks through cooperation and thus established itself as the driving force of coffee culture worldwide.
UCC introduced the world to the very first canned coffee in 1969, and it was such a big success other companies started producing their own canned coffee soon after. (I have written a whole article about UCC here if you are interested in learning about the company)
Their line of coffee beverages includes both canned and bottled coffees:
UCC Milk Coffee was launched in 1969 as the world's first canned coffee beverage. This product is also referred to as the Original Blend. It is a sweetened coffee drink that you can enjoy, both hot and cold. It might be a tad too sweet for some taste buds, but it’s a true classic and a safe bet for beginners in the world of canned coffee
UCC Black Unsweetened is the company’s pioneering black coffee drink. Also popularly called UCC Black Muto, which simply means “no sugar,” it contains ready-to-drink unsweetened black coffee with a bold flavor and smooth finish. You can find the Black series in cans, paper cartons, and plastic bottles, plus they also offer a cold brew option.
Kona coffee is the name for the coffee that has been cultivated on the island of Hawaii. UCC has its own Hawaiian Coffee Farm, where they grow their coffee for their famous Hawaii Kona Blend. The coffee is sweetened. It is very rich, and its aroma, once popped open, is incredible. The calories it contains are considerable, but it’s a delightful blend to be enjoyed hot or cold.
UCC Beans & Roasters Caffe Latte
UCC came up with a delightful milky collection made with their regular coffee. The line includes several flavors, including Caffe Latte, Dark Latte, Matcha Latte, Milk Latte, Strawberry Latte, and Decaf Latte. A decided favorite among many is the Caffe Latte, which is a luxurious mix of sweet milk and freshly ground UCC coffee. It bears a delicious espresso aroma.
BOSS Coffee (made by Suntory)
BOSS Coffee is owned by Suntory, a Japanese multinational distilling company. BOSS is currently the No.1 canned coffee brand in Japan. The coffee beans are sourced from the best Colombian and Brazilian farms; then, they are brewed and canned in Japan and exported to many countries worldwide, including the U.S.A.
They have launched the famous Flash Brew range, meaning the temperature is high when they brew the coffee, then they chill it rapidly to create an authentic 'flash brew.’ This allows for a bolder flavor with a smoother aftertaste without negative bitterness. The Flash Brew range includes
BOSS’s Cold Black Coffee has zero sugar, only ten calories, and the equivalent of a double shot of espresso! So it’s basically perfect for your early morning or mid-afternoon boost.
For their Café Au Lait, UCC uses coffee beans primarily from Brazilian farms. The coffee has a full body with a delicious balance of milk and sugar and a silky smooth finish. Perfect for those who love milk in their coffee!
The Rainbow Mountain Blend is a different category altogether when it comes to canned coffee! UCC uses a blend of beans only from Guatemala, a country well-known for its aromatic and unique coffee. The result is a well-balanced aromatic coffee with milk and sugar that has a rich flavor and an extra caffeine kick! Also, a favorite of Alien Jones!
Boss Zeitaku Bito
Since it was introduced in 2007, Boss Zeitaku Bito has been a consistently popular Boss Coffee option. It’s specifically for those who don’t tolerate bitterness and prefer a lightly sweetened coffee. The name itself translates to “luxury fine sugar.” Its gold-colored can is an iconic presence in coffee vending machines.
Premium Boss The Latte (Sugar-Free)
This option has become very popular among those who want to avoid sugar but prefer milk coffee to straight black. Fans of the drink like that it’s creamy because of the milk, but since it doesn’t have sugar, coffee remains its dominant flavor.
Georgia Coffee is one of Coca-Cola Japan's brands, and since its launch in 1975, Georgia has been a favorite of many people. Its range includes the famous and long-selling Georgia Emerald Mountain Blend, while the rest of the Georgia lineup comprises a variety of rich flavors.
The company is known for its dedication to quality beans and production methods. The brand name is derived from the state of Georgia, U.S.A., the birthplace of Coca-Cola. Some of its most famous coffee drinks include:
Emerald Mountain Blend is Georgia’s #1 beverage in Japan. The coffee beans have their origin in Colombia, and every can of Georgia Emerald Mountain coffee has an explanation about the origin and coffee bean picking process.
The blend of fragrant Colombian beans, in combination with the richness of whole milk, results in a creamy mouthfeel, a well-balanced flavor, and a lingering velvety aftertaste.
The Classic Original is a unique coffee by Georgia as it uses milk exclusively from Hokkaido, a region famous for its dairy. This popular coffee blend has been around since 1975 and is sweeter and milkier than most other Georgia Coffee lines. It also features 35% more content. You can drink the Classic Original hot or cold.
GEORGIA Roastery Black
Georgia has collaborated with the specialty coffee shop “Sarutahiko Coffee,” for its newest series aimed at young people who prefer black coffee. With Roastery Black, Georgia introduces us to a simple yet delicious coffee. This is a perfect coffee can to give you a bit of a caffeine boost without sugar or milk. The deep-roasted coffee beans produce an intense coffee aroma and a clean aftertaste.
GEORGIA Lattenista Café Latte
There are a lot of latte drinkers out there, and this is evidenced by the popularity of Georgia’s Lattenista line. It includes fresh flavors such as Café Latte, Caramel Latte, Bitter Latte, Creamy Latte, etc., but the Café Latte is a distinct favorite for its sweetness and smoothness that don’t take away from the coffee flavor.
Based in Osaka, Sangaria is one of Japan's most famous and established Japanese beverage companies. Their slogan, "Ichi, Ni, Sangaria" (いち、に、サングリア！), which translates to "one, two, sangaria!" is a very well-known slogan amongst the Japanese. Sangaria has reached a high status in Japanese popular culture with classic beverages like Ramune and green tea, but they also offer coffee options.
SANGARIA Quality Coffee Sumiyaki
Japan is known for charcoal-grilled or Sumiyaki coffee. Sangaria has infused this distinctly Japanese coffee into its lineup. Using freshly roasted coffee beans, it manages to deliver the rich aroma as well as the deep taste of freshly brewed Sumiyaki coffee.
Sangaria Crown Coffee Cafe Au Lait is a top-quality café au lait coffee with a mild coffee aroma and mellow flavor, made from carefully selected coffee beans and whole milk. A perfect coffee for those who prefer subtle and mild flavors but do not want to compromise quality
Fire by Kirin
Kirin is actually a brewing company most known in Japan and the world for its two famous beers: Kirin Lager and Kirin Ichiban. Although the company primarily focuses on brewing, it has tapped into producing other goods such as soft drinks, hard liquor, food, and coffee. For example, their coffee series is called Fire, and it’s quite popular in Japan.
What’s also noteworthy is that Kirin recognizes the public’s need for a more sustainable coffee product, so they have been helping coffee farms obtain sustainable coffee certifications. In addition, actions like conserving water and protecting rivers from pollution are helping the coffee farmers and thus ensuring Kirin has a better quality coffee product too.
Drinking black coffee is essential in everyday life in Japan and Kirin knows it. This is why its Fire Smoked Black canned coffee is of great quality. This coffee has a deep, rich, authentic black coffee flavor with smokey notes and a smooth aftertaste. Anyone can tell that Kirin is using the best quality beans and ingredients to achieve this result. Fire Smoked Black is
a great option to drink at any stage of the day. Its subtle cocoa notes make it ideal for breakfast, while it's also suitable for a lunch break or pairing with a dessert.
Fire Black Awakening Dark Roast
Fans of this coffee rave about its great fragrance. It has a prominent richness with a bitterness that’s very similar to fresh pour-over coffee. If you want something that will simultaneously comfort and wake you with its aroma as well as give you the feel of having been served freshly brewed black coffee, Fire Black Awakening Dark Roast makes an excellent choice.
This milk-based coffee is the perfect combination of the famous aromatic Kirin coffee beans, a splash of milk, and some sweet cream. Unlike other milk-based coffees, this one is only slightly sweetened, perfect as an afternoon delight for those needing that caffeine hit. Plus, you can enjoy this hot or cold, so it’s an all-year rounder!
DyDo is another major company in the beverage sector in Japan. Its most popular product is coffee, although they also produce other goods like tea, carbonated drinks, mineral water, and juice-based drinks.
Regarding its coffee, DyDo takes great pride in the quality of its beans and the fact that it uses no artificial flavors so that the buyer can taste the true flavor of the coffee bean. Its series includes a wide range of coffee drinks, the most famous being the Blend Demitasse.
The DyDo Blend Demitasse series is the company’s number one best-selling series, and for a good reason. One of the products from the series is the DyDo Blend Demitasse Fine Sugar canned coffee, the perfect blend of quality coffee beans, extracted coffee oil, and Hokkaido butter and mlk. This makes for a rich coffee drink with a lingering aftertaste—the perfect balance of creamy milk and delicious coffee.
It also bears mention that the Dydo Blend Demitasse Bitou Coffee, from the same line, but only lightly sweetened, has a pretty big following too.
Dydo Milk Coffee
DyDo uses dark roasted coffee beans, Hokkaido fresh cream, and milk for its milk coffee. This combination results in a full-bodied coffee drink with intense coffee flavour that is balanced by the sweetness of the Hokkaido cream. A great coffee drink for those who love their coffee bold and strong but also milky and creamy.
Dydo Black Barista Blend
DyDo is really stepping up its game with this blend and showing that it is a company that recognizes recent trends in coffee and offers its consumers top-quality products. The Black Barista Blend by DyDo is a coffee supervised by Pete Licata, the 2013 barista world champion.
Twenty types of roasted coffee beans used to create this drink give it its famous sharp and full coffee flavor, without any artificial flavorings or sugar. By bringing a barista champion on board, DyDo manages to offer yet another innovative coffee drink that showcases why DyDo coffee is so popular in Japan.
DyDo Blend Coffee Original
This is one of DyDo Drinco’s longest-selling products. It retains the original classic taste that can be traced back to its introduction in 1975. It comes with a little bit of cream and sugar, a delicious aroma, and a light but pleasant aftertaste.
Wonda by Asahi
Asahi is primarily a soft drinks company; however, it also sells canned coffee, tea, and flavored water. It coffee series is called Wonda and includes products such as the Wonda Morning Shot, the Wonda Gold Quality and the Wonda Kiwami Black The brand name is derived from the English word “wonderful.”
The brand was Asahi’s wish to create a new type of canned coffee that is refreshing and makes you feel good once you taste it. The unique brand name is an effort to reach out to people who wish to make their life more wonderful.
The Wonda Morning Shot canned coffee drink is the company’s number one seller and just as the name describes, it’s the perfect coffee to have first thing in the morning. As the Wonda slogan goes, this is "the coffee with perfect taste and feeling to greet every morning". With sugar and cream already added in, this is for many Japanese people the number one choice for their first caffeine intake for the day.
The Wonda Morning Shot canned coffee drink is the company’s number one seller, and just as the name describes, it’s the perfect coffee to have first thing in the morning. As the Wonda slogan goes, this is "the coffee with perfect taste and feeling to greet every morning.” With sugar and cream already added in, this is, for many Japanese people, the number one choice for their first caffeine intake for the day.
Wonda Gold Quality
Asahi is using 100% Arabica top quality beans for its Gold Quality blend. This is coffee drink has a deep and rich aroma, a full-bodied flavor, and less sugar than the usual blends. The perfect balance in flavor is achieved with the additonal cream and sugar. You can enjoy this coffee at any time of the day, either hot or cold.
Kiwami is the Japanese word for extreme, and yes, this coffee is extremely black in flavor. Asahi’s focus here is to offer a deep dark roasted flavour of their coffee beans so that the consumer can experience the their coffee’s authentic flavor. With no sugar added, this is the perfect choice for those who love their coffee black, sharp and bold.
While the above brands are the most commonly associated with Japanese vending machine canned coffee, other notable manufacturers have also released canned coffee products that are popular among vending machine users.
The Kobe Kyoryuchi brand by Tominaga Boeki Kaisha is known for manufacturing all kinds of Japanese beverages, from soda to alcohol. However, it also trades other products such as dried fruits, nuts, jam, seaweed, and tea. Its canned coffee offerings have also become popular among consumers. Here are two of its bestsellers.
This coffee is noted for its refreshing taste and floral aroma. It may not be as popular as the other brands, but many coffee lovers hail it for being among the best canned black coffee choices available, scoring particularly well in deliciousness and richness.
Kobe Kyoryuchi Low Sugar Coffee
This coffee also did well among those ranking low sugar options of Japanese canned coffee. It has a low-calorie content at just 15kcal for every 100ml. It’s an excellent choice for those who prefer something light and easy to drink.
While Doutor Coffee is more known for its coffee shops in and out of Japan, its canned coffee products are also figuring in various lists of top Japanese canned coffee choices.
Doutor Low Sugar Coffee
Doutor’s Low Sugar Coffee is the most notable among the brand’s canned coffee offerings. It achieves a good balance between bitterness and sweetness and is rated well for having very few calories at 15kcal per 100ml. Coffee enthusiasts also commend it for its fragrant aroma.
Pokka should be up there with the other leading brands. It’s one of the big names when it comes to Japanese canned or bottled beverages, coffee being one of its most popular products. It has been around for a long time and is actually credited for manufacturing the first canned coffee that can be sold continuously heated. However, it seems to feature more prominently in Southeast Asian countries. Its most familiar canned coffee product is the following:
Pokka Milk Coffee
Its fans like the rich, strong taste and delicious aroma of this can of sweet milk coffee from Pokka’s “real brewed” series. It is made with freshly ground coffee beans and can be enjoyed hot or cold.
While coffee is one of Muji’s popular products, it cannot really be considered a major Japanese coffee manufacturer. Nonetheless, it bears inclusion since some coffee enthusiasts have hailed Muji’s Sugar-Free Original Blend to be among the best canned black coffee options out there.
Muji Sugar-Free Original Blend Coffee
This is for those who are serious about getting an excellent coffee taste. It has a refined bitterness balanced with a natural sweetness, presenting a very rounded profile. It’s a very distinctly high-quality bitter coffee.
Tully’s is actually an American company, but since it has a licensing agreement with Japanese green tea company Ito En, Tully’s Coffee in Japan is as Japanese as they come. Ito En manufactures and markets Tully’s Coffee products, including Tully’s Coffee Barista’s Black, which has gathered a fanbase as well.
Tully’s Coffee Barista’s Black
Those who prefer this canned coffee like that, despite being black, it’s always tasty and not bitter. It has 10 percent mocha in it, explaining its far smoother quality not present in other canned black coffee products.
So, here we are! And I can already guess what you are thinking: there are so many canned coffee drinks to choose from;where do I start? Well, you can definitely see this as an adventure into the world of canned coffee.
The truth is you can have a lot of fun trying different ones and figuring out which one is your favorite. I hope this article will help get you started, and now you understand a bit more about Japan’s canned coffee culture. Enjoy!
• Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions
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- Kei and Team at Dream of Japan