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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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