Japanese canned coffee

Japanese canned coffee

nihongo|Canned Liquid coffee|缶コーヒー|kan kōhī is ubiquitous in Japan, with a large number of companies competing fiercely and offering various types for sale. Japanese canned coffee is already brewed and ready to drink. It is available in supermarkets and nihongo|convenience stores|コンビニ|kombini, with vast numbers of cans being sold in vending machines that offer heated cans in the autumn and winter, and cold cans in the warm months.


Canned coffee is a Japanese creation: the English-language term "can coffee" was created in Japan and is believed to have entered English usage as a way of distinguishing it from a typical can of, for instance, Folgers or Nescafé. In the United States, at least, "canned coffee" is the preferred term, if used at all.

UCC Ueshima Coffee Co. is well known in Japan for pioneering canned coffee with milk in 1969. The official government web site of Shimane Prefecture, Japan, claims that the world's first canned coffee -- Mira Coffee -- appeared in Shimane in 1965, but this was short-lived.

More significant perhaps was the 1973 introduction by Pokka Coffee of the hot and cold drink vending machine. The Japanese Wikipedia version of this article claims that it was this introduction that allowed the industry to take off, and in 1983 canned coffee makers shipped more than 100 million cases.One noteworthy element of Japanese canned coffee is the liberal use of English both for the word "coffee" and the brand name. Engrish is also used. Occasionally the Japanese word nihongo|kōhī|コーヒー dominates the can design, or, for effect, the kanji for nihongo|coffee|珈琲 may be used as well (also pronounced kōhī). Apart from company and content information English is the primary language used on Japanese coffee cans, for reasons that remain unclear.

Can design and shape have changed drastically. The earliest cans were simple in terms of graphic design and were often corrugated in the middle two-thirds of the can. Cans with straight steel sides appeared next, finally settling on a more modern shape. Like the earlier cans, this type also starts as a flat sheet that is curled and seamed. Extruded steel is also used extensively. Aluminum coffee cans are almost non-existent, although UCC Black is a notable exception.

Certain clichés entered the world of canned coffee graphic design early on and remain in use today. One in particular is white cream swirling into a cup of black coffee, while another is coffee beans. A more noteworthy cliché is the use of Western faces as part of the design, notably Pokka Original from the early 1970s, and Boss Coffee which first appeared in the early 1990s. Of seemingly more recent origin is the use of ice cubes on many iced coffee brands.


Besides UCC and Pokka, all large Japanese beer, soda, and drink companies and most coffee companies either currently, or have at some point, offered canned coffee. The most popular brand today in below;
* Boss Coffee (produced by Suntory)
* Fire (Kirin Beverage)
* Dydo
* Georgia (Coca-Cola of Japan.)
* Nescafe
* Roots (Japan Tobacco)
* Wonda (Asahi)

Other brands include Jack (Sapporo Beverage), Itoen, Sangaria, Coffee Time (Yakult), BG (Meiji Dairies), and Cafe La Mode (Calpis). Regional and house brands are also common, and the bigger companies offer regional versions of their coffee. Brad Pitt has been featured in a Roots ad in Japan.


There are numerous types of canned coffee in Japan, most of which make up a typical company's line up. Very common is "milk coffee," which includes milk and is generally quite sweet. Black coffee is also popular, as are nihongo|"low sugar"|微糖, cafe au lait, and milk coffee without sugar. Georgia has offered American-style flavored coffees such as hazelnut, but those are rarely seen suggesting that Japanese coffee drinkers eschew them for more traditional tastes. Seasonal coffees are also produced, especially "ice coffee", which appears during the summer months. There seems to be no difference between ice coffee and cold coffee, except as a marketing gimmick. The coffee varieties are often sold both hot and cold.

Can Design

The original UCC can had a capacity of 250 ml, which appears tall and narrow to the Western eye. In the 1970s 190 ml cans appeared, and both of these can sizes still exist. Despite differences in the amount of coffee the price is the same for each. Size does not denote type of flavor in either the 250 or 190 ml can, but iced coffee cans tend to be short and fat and contain 280 ml. American-sized (350 ml) cans are almost non-existent, although Dydo produces one of that size called "American Coffee." Barrel-shaped cans are also fairly popular, while an aspect of the Roots' marketing campaign is the company's unique "waist-shaped" can. A new kind of cone-top type can with a twist-off cap has appeared in recent years, and many companies offer at least one of their coffee types in this kind of container.Coffee can graphic design follows certain strictures, especially the use of English, as well as some clichés and certain colors. Until recently most cans produced by a particular company followed a set pattern, with color differentiating the type of coffee. Recent can design, however, especially among the major brands, has abandoned that tradition. The cans often provide superb examples of modern Japanese commercial graphic design.

Commemorative cans are quite common in Japan, for major events such as the Tokyo Motor Show, sports teams and sporting events, and manga characters.

Can Collecting

In Japan there is no coffee can collecting organization equivalent to the Brewery Collectibles Club of America. However, coffee can collectors do indeed exist in Japan, and some of them have put those images of parts of their collections online (see links below). How many collectors there are is unknown.

There are no books available on the topic. It is likely that rarer Japanese coffee cans have a monetary value, but for the time being efforts at systematizing the hobby are at a low level. Foreign collectors of Japanese coffee cans may exist, but their numbers are likely extremely low.

External links

[http://whatjapanthinks.com/2006/10/26/almost-half-of-japanese-men-start-their-workday-with-a-canned-coffee/ A translated survey on Japanese canned coffee consumption]

All of the below are in Japanese, offering numerous images of historic Japanese coffee cans:

* [http://www.kunion.com/can/can-past.html]
* [http://www2s.biglobe.ne.jp/~avt/]
* [http://www7.ocn.ne.jp/~kosai/]
* [http://www.masuzawa.jp/georgia/g.midashi.htm]
* [http://www13.plala.or.jp/canquest/new_page_2.htm]
* [http://www.pref.shimane.lg.jp/admin/seisaku/koho/ichiban/ advertisement for the world's first canned coffee]

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