For many years now, the UK’s coffee industry has been ruled by one giant coffee chain – Costa Coffee – with even Starbucks accepting defeat and claiming 2nd place as the country’s most popular cafe, it is understandable why so many independent coffee stores live in fear of the UK’s coffee king.
Now, Japan has a bit of a franchise coffee chain problem themselves, with more than 1,600 Starbucks stores dotted around the country, and with Doutor and Tully’s following close behind. Despite the harrowing number of coffee chains spread throughout the country, independent stores in Japan don’t seem to have many complaints, and instead of suffering a loss of customers to franchise stores, they instead seem to experience a stable number of new and returning customers.
But that could be about to change.
If you’ve wandered along the Nakameguro high street recently, and you’re a Brit, you may or may not have noticed the infamous burgundy and white hues of Costa Coffee signs beginning to suspiciously appear along the sidewalk.
Whether or not the London-bred coffee chain sought out to follow in Starbucks footsteps and make Nakameguro their Tokyo base (there are 4 Starbucks stores located within a 1km radius of each other in Nakameguro), they’ve opened up more than one coffee stand in the area, after launching their first Tokyo store in Shibuya.
Ok, I see what you might be thinking… "what harm can a coffee chain stand do? It’s just a little stand." But if you open your hearts up for the independent stores for just a second, you’ll note how even one small coffee stand of a giant chain means even less space for them in the Nakameguro area.
And it’s not only Nakameguro, Costa Coffee has just made the big leap down to Kyushu, where they’ve just opened up a new wagon store in Fukuoka, complete with limited edition drinks. For any Brit’s on the island, this could be a chance to throw back some serious nostalgia, from before the travel bans took their hold on the world. And for anyone else, you could take the chain’s arrival as a chance to form your own opinion about the new (big) kid on the block, and what their intentions in Japan really are.
Despite my reservations, I still don’t want to jump to conclusions, but I am wondering if a Costa Coffee takeover is on the books for Japan, and whether the independent stores are in for a bumpy ride.
Introducing Fukuoka PayPay Dome Costa Coffee store
Kyushu’s first Costa Coffee opened to the public on March 26, at Fukuoka PayPay Dome’s Hawk’s Cafe. Their limited edition menu was supposedly created as the perfect beverage to sip on whilst watching a baseball game at the venue.
Limited Edition specialty drinks (Fukuoka PayPay Dome store only)
Strawberry iced Latte – 680 yen
Chocolate cookie iced latte – 680 yen
Costa Coffee was created in London in 1971 by the Costa brothers Sergio and Bruno, and has since become Europe’s leading coffee brand, with more than 3,000 chains operating across the continent as of 2019 (via statistical survey by Statista).
Of all the coffee beans in the world, Costa Coffee only considers 5% to be suitable for their
brand, and they choose to use 100% *Rainforest Alliance certified beans. All of their beans are slowly roasted at their state-of-the-art roasting plant in Basildon, Essex underneath the direction of a Costa Coffee Roasting Master. Slow roasted to the specifications of Costa’s signature blend, the beans have a smooth, delicate and all-round balanced flavor that can be enjoyed by even newcomers to the world of coffee.
*A Rainforest Alliance certification means that the product was produced by farmers, foresters and/or companies using methods that lead to strengthening of the three pillars of sustainability – social, economic and environmental.
So what do I think about the landing of Costa Coffee on the streets of Japan as a Brit?
There was once a time when I would spend all my coffee money on Costa Coffee in the UK. Admittedly I was new to the caffeine buzz, and with there being a Costa Coffee shop on every single corner of my city, it was an easy go-to.
It took a while, but eventually I branched out to other franchises like Cafe Nero or Boston Tea Party (South West UK based and the first coffee chain in the world to stop issuing single use coffee cups in 2018), and once I had acquired a tongue for specialty coffee, independent stores like Ka:Fei (a gem of a coffee kiosk owned and run by the friendliest baristas I’ve ever met; Arrow and Fency. Seriously, if you are in Bristol city, grab yourself the best coffee you’ve ever had from Ka:Fei) in the centre of Bristol City became a second home to me.
Does the arrival of Costa Coffee spell out the ending of Japan’s independent coffee shop industry? I sure hope not.
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