food

Starbucks vs two popular Japanese coffee shops: Which gives best value?

28 Comments
By Dale Roll, SoraNews24

With all of the awesome flavors that Starbucks is always coming out with, you might think that it dominates the cafe market in Japan. Well, it might, to be honest, but Japan also has a whole host of other, exclusive coffee shops that have equally diverse menus. So, to decide which of them has the best food and drinks available, at the best price, we decided to test out two of Japan’s top coffee shops and see how they compare to Starbucks.

The cafes we chose are Doutor Coffee and Tully’s Coffee, both of which can be found in and around train stations and shopping centers all across Japan. We set our cost limit at 700 yen for one food item and one drink item, preferably in a set. Our goal? To see which cafe gives us the most bang for our buck.

coffee-comparison2.jpg

We started with Doutor, easily the most economical of the three coffee shops. They have a plethora of dessert sets at a good price, in which you can choose from six different kinds of cake and get any small drink for 570 to 610 yen. For our test, we chose a crepe cake set, for 570 yen, with an iced latte, which was an extra 20 yen, and which we upgraded to a large size for another 100 yen, for a total of 690 yen.

coffee-comparison3.jpg

The  fact that this set was part of the regular menu, and that we were even able to upgrade the size of the drink to a large, made Doutor’s cost performance pretty stellar in our eyes.

coffee-comparison6.jpg

In comparison to value-priced Doutor, Tully’s has a reputation for being a little bit more pricey. They have a nice selection of original menu items like the “Chocorista” and the “Squeeze”, but finding both a drink and a food item for less than 700 yen proved pretty challenging here. We ended up with a baumkuchen cake (240 yen) and a Cafe Au Lait Swirkle (430 yen) for a total of 670 yen.

coffee-comparison7.jpg

Intending to really enjoy the charm of Tully’s menu, we’d hoped to get a freshly baked cake, or perhaps to some ice cream to go with our drink, but alas none of that could fit into our price range, so we had to downgrade to a prepackaged sweet, which was a little disappointing.

coffee-comparison9.jpg

On the other hand, we were able to order a Swirkle, which is Tully’s equivalent to a Starbucks Frappucino. However, although Tully’s has put in a lot of effort into making itself comparable to Starbucks, we couldn’t help but think that, when buying things at the same price point, Tully’s products didn’t have quite as much “oomph”.

coffee-comparison10.jpg

Finally, we headed to Starbucks. As expected, finding a food and drink combination for less than 700 yen there was pretty tricky, especially considering many of Starbucks’ Frappucinos alone can cost upwards of 600 yen. For our food item, we ended up scraping by with the cheapest menu item, the Chocolate Chunk Scone (260 yen), as well as a basic drink, an iced Starbucks Latte (380 yen), for a grand total of 640 yen.

coffee-comparison11.jpg

The trouble with Starbucks, however, is that their menu prices don’t include tax, so even though we thought we were well under 700 yen when making our order, with tax we ended up cutting it a little close at 691 yen. Starbucks does have an extra edge when you factor in their customer service and the atmosphere of their cafes, but when you order with a price limit in mind, we felt that those things didn’t matter.

In the end, it seems like Doutor gave us the most return for our money, since we got a real, fresh cake along with a decent-sized coffee. If the food doesn’t matter as much to you, then you could get by with Tully’s, which could get you something slightly fancy to go along with a small snack. Starbucks was, in our opinion, the least cost-effective, as we were neither able to get something really good to eat nor a special drink on our strict budget.

If you are willing to raise your price limit to 1,000 yen, you will have a whole extra host of options to choose from at all three cafes, with better food options, to boot. But if you’ve got very tight purse strings, there is a list of all the coffee chains in Japan ranked by the cost of a cup of coffee, so you can always pick the cheapest one in your area.

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- We try epic pancakes at Japanese coffeehouse chain Doutor

-- Second anime cafe based on films of Summer Wars’ Mamoru Hosoda now open in Japan

-- Starbucks’ retro Japanese kissaten menu debuts deliciously mature coffee gelatin cake【Taste test】

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

28 Comments
Login to comment

Starbucks for comfort, no smoking, and atmosphere. But we love Doutor! Except for smoking. And no comfortable seating, no WiFi, cannae charge phones! These days, it’s absolutely inexcusable to not have WiFi internet, and it’s plain cheap and chintzy to not be able to charge a phone! So, it’s Starbucks!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I've been to Tully's only once and ended up throwing out half my coffee because it was disgusting.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Joeintokyo

I've been to Tully's only once and ended up throwing out half my coffee because it was disgusting.

Sounds like a Starbucks experience to me.

Joeintokyo, with a moniker like that you should know what you’re talking about.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

As a visitor to Japan, Doutor gets my vote.

When hotel breakfasts are too expensive, when you just want a cup of decent coffee (their house blend) and a tasty snack, Doutor every time.

Only time in my life I've ever been to a Starbucks was in Kanazawa. We had their American-style coffee - the worst cup of coffee I've had on three continents. Could not drink it. Tully's are OK, in my opinion.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I always take a detour to Doutour when out and about.

Coffee's the cheapest of these three but I like it the best. Their coffee ends to be smoother and less bitter.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

coffee in Japan whether in the can or at a coffee shop sucks, as well as Starbucks. Mister Donut was good many years ago until they switched. I know I’m in the minority here, just my personal tastes.

Invalid CSRF

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

St Marc cafe would get my vote. Decent coffee (blend) with choco-cro pastry under 500 yen. No wifi though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Starbucks is good for atmosphere and drink selection, but as the article mentions, it's food/snack menu and pricing is high.  My drink alone is a little over 600 yen most times, and I don't necessarily want a sweet when I'm there for a while to work/study.  Their sandwiches and such are mostly overpriced, under-filled bread.

Tully's has the worst drink selection to my tastes, and they use entirely too much ice in their cold drinks (not to mention it's cubes, so even more space wasted in the cup).  And the one nearest to me only has one or two outlets in their entire second floor seating area, and none on their ground floor.  I only go if friends are meeting there, I would never choose it if alone.

Haven't tried Dotour yet. Maybe I should, but no wifi (as some comments note) would be a deal-breaker to me staying in long.

Anyone know if Komeda's is good?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would love to have a job where I get paid to drink coffee and write about something anyone who has spent more than two weeks in Japan already knows.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

CyGene, “But we love Doutor! Except for smoking. And no comfortable seating, no WiFi, cannae charge phones!”

If you love them hope you can find a better location. Because of timing and location, I currently have occasion to use three different Doutor shops on a fairly regular basis. One is located in a hospital and is totally non-smoking. The other two have excellently designed smoking sections that are completely walled off and pose no problems for the non smokers like me. In all of them it’s possible to use the wifi of the larger building they are housed in. Two of the locations have an electric socket for charging phones or computers at each of the twelve seats of a large table. Each shop has a variety of tables/seating types. My main complaint in that area is that at two locations the tables are too close to each other for my taste but that’s somewhat par for the course in Japan. The staff at all three shops is extremely friendly, kind, and helpful.

I prefer non-sweet beverages and usually have caffe latte at Doutors but in the recent heat I’ve been enjoying the Ume Green Tea. Not too sweet, has a bit of tang and very refreshing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Tully's does a better cup of tea than Starbucks or Dotour.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Well, there is always konbini coffee though

2 ( +2 / -0 )

LudditeToday  10:57 am JST

“Tully's does a better cup of tea than Starbucks or Dotour.“

But our our choices can’t always be made based only on taste preferences. I used to go to Starbucks a lot when traveling for business mainly because of the no-smoking policy and ability to charge my phone or laptop.. Now I don’t leave my town very often and the local Starbucks are not in good locations for my daily routine. Also used to go to Tully’s quite often when working out of town when there was no Starbucks convenient but here the only one is too far. At this point I can’t even remember what their coffee tasted like, ha ha.

Vistula, yes there is the coffee at convenience stores, especially helpful when trying to keep costs down. But sometimes I need a place to sit down indoors for a while and they don’t always have that. For my current needs and abilities Doutors is usually doing the trick.

That said, my favorite place to go when possible is a locally owned coffee shop with only one location, great coffee, wonderful atmosphere and congenial owners and customers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Starbucks is garbage

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Coffee is foul. It leaves your mouth like an armpit.

As a tea drinker, the quality of tea in these shops is terrible. Most of them offer a teabag and hot water for silly prices.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

You're not paying for the coffee, you're renting space. Which place has the best cost/environment ratio?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“Starbucks vs two popular Japanese coffee shops:”

Just noticed this. Isn’t Tully’s also from Seattle, like Starbucks?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Family restaurants are often best for coffee. Go for the drinks bar and select espresso and keep pushing the button until your cup is full. That way you get a good strong cup of coffee.

I always used to say Doutor had better coffee, but Starbucks had better air. In fact, Starbucks became a success by doing what all Japanese coffee shops said would never work and going no-smoking.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Haven't been to Doutor for years. I found the tobacco smell really off-putting. I remember the first time I stepped inside one - I was so pleased to find a non-smoking table. As soon as I sat down, I realized the table next to mine was NOT non-smoking. Logic and common sense really doesn't exist in some places.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Pukey2,

It used to be that way, but both of the Doutors I've been to recently (Tokyo and Kyoto) have now separated the smokers from the non-smokers by floor-to-ceiling partititions. If you get there at the right time you can select a table where you can watch the smokers ruining their health while enjoying your Doutor's Blend and having a cheesy toast, smoke-free.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Moderator, Tully's is an American coffee shop. Founded in 1992 in Seattle, but I guess since it is run via a franchise instead of directly from the US H.Q. like Starbucks is, you are thinking it is a Japanese coffee shop?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why pay 700 yen for a coffee and a snack at these coffeeshops when you can get a medium size coffee and a hot apple pie at McD's for 250 yen?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

With that reasoning would you call McDonald's a Japanese restaurant or 7-11 a Japanese convenient store or Mr. Donuts a Japanese doughnut shop? They might be run better than their American counterparts, but it doesn't make them Japanese. Right? Or am I wrong? Anyway, my vote is Dotour, but their smoking policy keeps me away.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

FizzBitToday  09:18 am JST

coffee in Japan whether in the can or at a coffee shop sucks, as well as Starbucks. Mister Donut was good many years ago until they switched. I know I’m in the minority here, just my personal tastes.

Invalid CSRF

FizzBitToday,

I'm often getting ‘Invalid CSRF’. I’ve learnt to prepare. Select all and copy. Try posting. If you get Invalid CSRF then go to the bottom and click on ‘contact us’. When you get that page then do a backspace to this posting page and try pasting. More often than not it works. If you get the Invalid CSRF again repeat the process. On occasion you’ll have to repeat. Important is to select all and copy so that you don’t lose your work.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Starbucks has gone to become factory food and drink style and quality. Coffee and step above 7/11 but nor worth the price. IMHO a French press or glass vacuum type brewer at home is cheapest and best flavor. On the street select best social and freshest pastries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pukey2, hooktrunk2,

Regarding smoking at Dotours, see earlier posts by myself and BifYen.

talaraedokko,

Thanks for that information about the totally annoying “invalid CSRF” notices that in recent months frequently prevent posts from going through. I had thought it was just me until I started seeing that written at the bottom of posts by Cleo and others (and wondered did they go to the trouble of actually typing that at the end of their posts or did it automatically get inserted, and if so why didn’t that happen for me?). My own stumbled upon workaround is to copy all of my post, log out, log in again, paste and post. I might give your method a try next time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Agree that Starbucks coffee is average at best and priced high but as their ex CEO once famously stated they are not in business to provide the best coffee around but a comfortable place to relax and spend time....as another poster said above you are renting space, clean, non smoking, free wifi environment.....and of course here in Japan they possess the ' cool' western cachet.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sometimes I grab a sandwich from Doutor but never get coffee from any of those places, i'm just not really into it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites