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When you drink coffee or tea in Japan, do you prefer the chains like Starbucks, Tully’s, Doutor, etc, or do you prefer the traditional “kissaten?”


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I prefer the 100 yen, fresh brewed while you wait, coffee at 7/11. I have one every day on the way to work, and on weekends when I'm out for a stroll. The entire staff of my local 7/11 will reach for a cup when they see me, before I've had a chance to say a word.

8 ( +10 / -2 )


0 ( +3 / -3 )

Are there traditional kissaten? I don't see any and it's a pity. I spent many very pleasant hours at a Jazz Kissa in Kichijoji, listening to jazz LPs on an excellent HiFi system sipping really good coffee.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I prefer at home from my stove-top espresso pot in my favourite mug. No smoke. No close-proximity tables. No luke-warm product. My own favourite music. ... I guess I should get out more though...

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I prefer non-smoking places with excellent coffee. Unfortunately it seems you can't have both.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Back before standardisation hit the coffee shop market, those kissaten were hit and miss. Once you found one that didn't have as much smoke as the others, it was a good place to relax, listen to music or read magazines. The coffee? Depended on the day, sometimes.

Recently I've found a couple of retro-kissaten with the low chairs forcing you to hit your knees on the table, the magazines, the music, the dark interior but without the smoke. Nice places but too expensive now.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Starbucks, Tullys, Doutor,, seem noisy crowded but Kissatens seem quiet and relaxing place to drink coffee. I prefer quiet places to drink some coffee/tea and to think/talk something there.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

You can have both.

Quiet a few Bakery/Cafe combinations that have them. German Bakery in my Town serves European coffee, lunch and the 2nd story cafe is non-smoking.

Owner says Cigarette smell would impact his wares. He also forbids language lessons, great place to pass the time with a cuppa and a book.

Don't expect both at franchise places.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I refuse to pay several hundred yen for a cuppa if the place serves it in a paper cup when you drink in.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@tessa I'm not sure where you live, but West Wood Bakers and The Pie Shop in Osaka (Horie and Shinsaibashi) are non smoking and have amazing coffee.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I prefer my own

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Musashino has a ton of cafe, like the one mentioned above.

Most are tucked away though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Taste-wise the kissa are generally better, but for atmosphere or convenience I prefer Starbucks hands down. No way I'm going to sit and read in a kissa full of smoke. I also like the convenience store coffee from time to time.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Japan has a huge coffee-scene of independent coffeeshops with fantastic coffee, often free internet, and are smoke free. Japan is probably one of the best countries in the world to drink coffee, provided you are in one of the big cities.

One thing about some traditional kissa: in Nagoya and some other places, in the morning, you'll get toast and eggs with coffee for 500 yen, that is nice.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Actually family restaurants usually have a drinks bar. It seems they are the places to drink espresso. Coffee shops give you miniscule cups with just a trace of coffee. In a familoy restaurant you can fill a cup up and do so as many times as you like.

In one family restaurant I could not find the espresso button. A waitress kindly pointed out that they did not have one. I should selecte latte. The milk would come out first. I should throw that away and use another cup to catch the coffee that would follow.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Tough question to answer definitively. There are some kissaten out there that have a really good atmosphere -- which is really what's it's all about. And then there are some that probably could do with a facelift or three for a variety of reasons -- run-down, cramped, reeking of stale cigarette smoke. The same goes for Starbucks. Some locations have a really good vibe while others don't. I go where the best vibe for me personally.

When it comes to taste, though, I don't really like Starbuck's regular offerings. Too bitter for me. Honestly, I enjoy McDonald's cheap stuff. The flavor suits me. I also enjoy Uejima Coffee House's regular brew for the same reason.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I watch them and If they don,t know,I actually teach the owner of the cafe how to use the expresso. Japanese seem to think that all coffee is double black. To flash the expresso system every night after closing and before opening and the milk must be 3.5 nothing less and be prepare for soy milk coffee drinkers

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I once spotted a really cool kissa in Shibuya. Went inside, and 6 or the 8 other customers were smoking.

Gulped down my coffee and fled, and vowed to never again return to such a toxic place.

Clean-air 'Bucks is now where I got relax and get some work done.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Most of the traditional kissaten I have been to had quite a few smokers with plenty of smoke. How about the rest of you ?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Small, independent cafes offering 'proper' coffee. My local is owned by a lady who also sell & roast coffee beans. Ultra-minimalist menu (3-4 choices), no tea/hot choc/ skim caramel latte & frappuccino drinkers, 3 tables (6ppl max), love it. And as an added bonus, no smoking. And a very decent 300Y for a (long) expresso.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Many kissa now gone non-smoking now.

Seems to be places who roast their own coffee beans.

Coming from a place with a strong and long cafe culture most franchises don't do it for me, atmosphere and taste wise.

Anyone know a place that serves Melange in western Tokyo?

0 ( +0 / -0 )


0 ( +2 / -2 )

I prefer my own home. I have the most beautiful woman in the world to look at (my wife), the biggest buffoon for entertainment (my black lab), always nonsmoking, always clean, the coffee is less than 70 yen per cup, and my kids love chatting with me.

Stop giving your hard earned money to corporations that serve chemicals and care nothing for your health, and buy organic coffee. It saves you money and keeps all that syrupy chemical laden crap out of your system.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Well, I met my wife at a Starbucks so I'm kind of biased. I do like the ambiance of the traditional kissaten, but they're always so full of smoke that it's impossible to enjoy the flavor of anything. They also tend to be quite expensive, even more than the major chains. So because of that I'd have to go with the major chains.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I'm a bit of a miser so I drink (nice) tea at home. As we live in the city centre there doesn't seem much point in going to a cafe across the road.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

For franchises I prefer Excelsior, they do a good morning special Hot Sand + Cappucino(my choice) for around 500 yen and served in a Porcelain Cup.

Crown Bakery is also decent as is Cafe de Crie.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Starbucks won't get any more of my business until they get with the program and agree not to discriminate against U.S. citizens when hiring.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Personally prefer bakery/cake shops with coffee, or all-you-can-drink family restaurants. Basically I go for cheap, non-smoking places.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Tully's is out for me. I'm not going to pay 300-400 yen for a cup of coffee, then have no real milk or cream to put in it. That chemical witche's brew "Creap" or "non dairy creamer" has no place near real coffee. Starbuck's, for their myriad fauts, at least has milk.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Starbucks, of course. Clean, civilized and reliable.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

"Starbucks, for their myriad faults, at least has milk"

They'd really win my heart if they started offering 1/2 & 1/2.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

jcapan - They do have half and half - or thereabouts, depending on your mixing skills - you just pour in some cream and some milk, which they have both.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Illy. Or my Nespresso at home.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

If I am looking to sit with a coffee and relax I look for a place where I can do so without inhaling cigarette smoke.

That rules out Doutor (terrible place) and most kissaten. Starbucks and Tully's are generally good, in fact since American chains are generally the only ones I know which you can rely on to be no-smoking, those are usually where I go, unless there is some locally owned cafe that I know is smoke free.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I agree with the above posters that the traditional kissaten is fading away fast. Really a big shame. Having said that, I do enjoy them when I find them, but for the sake of convenience coffee shops are indispensible.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Non-smoking places. Kyoto has a lot of nice machiya cafes with great coffee that are also non-smoking.

Seattle's Best is my favorite chain.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I drink cappuccino. For that Starbucks and Tully's are generally fine, Doutur hit and miss, mostly miss, and outside it is plain scary.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Smoking is declining big time, with Japan Tobacco expecting a 9 or 10% decrease year on year.

But without a haze of dank smoke, it will be hard to continue calling these places kissaten, as the first kanji means smoke, followed by tea, and lastly shop. Head out to the "Saten" for a spot of tea?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

How are you getting "ki" to equate to "smoke" ??

2 ( +2 / -0 )

the first kanji means smoke

The 喫 of 喫茶店 means 'to imbibe; to drink; to take in though the mouth' thus 喫茶= tea (and by extension coffee) drinking and 喫煙= smoking.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Japan is probably one of the best countries in the world to drink coffee, provided you are in one of the big cities.

Disagree. Imo way behind Oz, NZ and Western Europe (and most countries I have visited actually) in terms of quality and price. Plenty of small, independent cafes that make great espressos/long blacks, cappuccinos and yes even the dreaded (by me) frappuccinos and babyccinos (as it means mums and kids) everywhere.

Different story in japan where drip/filter coffee is still the norm and black-coffee drinkers in particular have a tough time finding a place that makes good espresso coffee with the right amount of crema, in the right cup etc (paper cup or mug -in 2017- really?!). That's why half this thread is about starbucks, tully's, maccas etc. Dunno anyone who systematically looks for those big chains when in sydney, welly, rome etc.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

喫茶店 First kanji is in kitsuen 喫煙 or smoking. For nonsmoking, kinen (different kanji 禁煙) is the choice when you want your tea without the "traditional" tobacco smoke in your face.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

喫茶店 First kanji is in kitsuen 喫煙 or smoking.

The first kanji is used in 'smoking', but it doesn't mean smoking. Read Cleo's post.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I will defer to Cleo as she has been in Japan longer than I have been alive. That explains why these places are not called "kitsuenten." Thanks for the lesson Cleo and Strangerland!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Thanks for taking on the lesson and not getting all defensive and **** about it like so many posters here do.

I'm sure many people here will find it interesting, I loved finding out new things like that (although I already essentially knew this one, though I couldn't have translated it into English without looking it up).

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Thank you also to lucabrasi for pointing out my error. For anyone interested, here's the kanji for tobacco 煙草 though if the nonsmoking trend continues it should be obsolete by the end of the century (let's hope).

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Delonghi bean-to-cup semiautomatic machine at home. Hands down.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Whenever I go to a coffee shop I drink Cocoa, or something.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I like Segafreddo Zanetti, an Italian chain. Branches in Shinjuku, Roppongi, Shibuya and a few other places. Better coffee (in my opinion) than Starbucks et al. at slightly higher prices. No smoking sections on different floors and not too crowded on weekday mornings.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Such civil discussion on this thread today. Everyone's had their joe.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

To be totally honest my favourite coffee in Japan comes in heated cans from vending machines. Most coffee in chains or cafes/restaurants is too strong for me. As for tea - I take my own tea bags on holiday... can't beat Tetley tea bags :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

7/11 100 JPY coffee is really very hand to beat. 100% Arabica, and the beans are not older than 7 days since roasting. I do prefer it...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Whichever has the best wifi :)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

At home I make my own coffee, beans are imported from my hometown.

Was interested in a Nespresso till I found out the capsules can't be recycled and thus are banned in many places now.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You have to look around for a decent cup/pot of tea and often pay through the nose for one, and what's with the teabags? I don't think coffee drinkers would be happy with a cup filled with hot water and a sachet of instant coffee.


0 ( +1 / -1 )

Forgot Blendy Stick... love that stuff.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It is interesting the so many of the people who have posted like me detest smoky places. I believe that is why kissaten are being replaced by chains. Everyone in Japan and, in particular, bar owners, restauranteurs and coffee shop owners insisted no-smoking places would never succeed in Japan and would soon go out of business. Yet the no-smoking places are thriving. It is the smoke-holes that are going out of business. Why else did Starbucks succeed with their medioce, self-service coffee in paper cups and undersized tables? Well, I suppose you could argue that they are cheaper than kissaten, which used to charge around 500 yen for a cup of coffee although Japanese people always explained that you were really paying for the service and right to sit in comfort as long as you had some coffee left.

Having said this, for the sake of nostalgia BYG in Shibuya is worth a visit. IT seems it has hardly changed since it opened, and fortunately the music, great rock, played by the DJ (one who plays music as it was intended to be played rather than destroying it with effects) hasn't changed either.

The best country for coffee is not Japan. I believe Vietnam is, but this is a personal opinion. The coffee is great if you don't add or let them add condensed milk.

The best place in Japan to drink coffee is my home as I have managed to find a source of imported Vietnamese coffee, which I make in an inexpensive espresso machine, which seems to work much better than a De Longhi I bought. I haven't compared it with a Nespresso machine as they work only with Nespresso coffee capsules.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Besides the smoke-free environment, I prefer the furniture at the more recent chain shops. I never appreciated Starbucks and similar others' so much in the past, but tiny tables, odd plastic chairs or really low sofas in Kissatens really opened my eyes to the value of stable, heavier and well-designed furniture!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Having your own espresso machine is fine, but even more important is having an excellent burr grinder so you can grind the beans just before brewing. Too bad they're so expensive. I think Seattle has to be one of the best places for coffee, and I don't just mean Starbucks, Tullys or Seattles Best Coffee. There are hundreds of coffee places in the city - naturally all smoke free.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Personally, I would still say europe is tops for Coffee, but than I biased towards my own region.

IMO, US coffee is too bitter and often burned. But most of us prefer what we grew up with. ;)

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I'm not a coffee guy really, more of a tea lover, but when I drink coffee as long as it tastes good, I could care less where it comes from. I find the smaller shops, bars or restaurants have often better coffee. Having said that, I do love Starbucks and Tully's , but ONLY to use their great wifi and to relax, in that department they can't be beat.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Yet Japan is ready to exempt small bars from the No Smoking ban. Really a total shame. All the arguments above supporting the popularity of nonsmoking coffee shops applies to small bars. I hope in the future Japan will apply door stickers to advertise the smoking/nonsmoking situation within.

Personally, I have found nonsmoking coffee/restaurants/izakaya COMPLETELY JAMMED WITH CUSTOMERS.

Rest of the world will agree that nonsmoking equals LOTS of customers. Smokers equals smokers and worker's health issues.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

i prefer in my home.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I went to a Musashino Mori in Mutsukawa, Kanagawa not long ago. Man, the coffee was brilliant, and the eggs and toast for the breakfast set were fantastic. Try it.

I like hanging in coffee shops in Japan, I'm not real fussy. The coffee is hit and miss but I find them generally pretty good. Starbucks is reliable and I enjoy the quiet atmosphere. The is a casual social-ness to coffee shops.

But no tobacco.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Kissaten shops generally allow smoking, and stink so badly that one can't even taste one's coffee. So no, I don't frequent them.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Have an allergy to some green teas, so I have to be careful. Don't like burnt coffee. Drank coffee for 20+ yrs before switching to teas. Generally brew with loose-leaf teas daily, specially purchased. Lots of different flavors. I get to control the strength that way.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not only do I dislike Starbucks, I dislike the kind of people who hang out there. And let's not forget the nasty wooden chairs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Koseto(?) in Ochanomizu is a great place for coffee lovers if you willing to cash out around 1000 yen per cup.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To be fair to Doutor, the smoking there seems almost non-existent. I frequent a couple regularly. Only seen a couple of smokers in five years. And they both have very high ceilings.

I'm sure there are nasty Doutors, but I've never experienced one.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Doutor, Excelsior, do separate them in rooms or floors. Not much smoke smell as the airflow is usually towards the smaller smoking section.

Many local kissaten had to close down near me as their buildings were torn down to make room for tower apartment buildings.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Two Doutor cafes in Ryogoku. One refurbished and banished smoking to the 2nd floor. Pity the staff that must go up there. The other keeps a fishbowl-like glass room in the back but there is NO DOOR so the stench sometimes comes out. Pity the staff and looking at their ashtrays of butts on the return tray shelf is pretty revolting. Doutor could do MUCH better.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )


'lukewarm' product? Have to agree. Some places serve coffee this way. Not sure why they dont get it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't like Starbucks.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I like both concepts. Starbucks and the likes are really nice places to go, to feel good. I enjoy it a lot. On the other hand, kissaten can be very original. Where else can you have a boiled egg along with a mug of coffee?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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