Information Bulletin No.12

Ice Coffee: A Year Round Japanese Favorite

June 30 , 1995

Ice coffee enjoys a popularity in Japan that is probably unmatched in any other part of the world. The perception of ice coffee as a drink found only on the summer menu of coffee shops has changed, however, with people enjoying it at home now no matter what the season. A variety of ice coffee products, packaged in ready-to-serve cartons and plastic bottles, have appeared on the market, with some being semi-sweet and others completely unsweetened.

Just exactly who came up with the style of drinking coffee cooled in ice is not known, but it appears that it first began in Japan. According to one story, Japan's first coffee shop opened in 1881, and with the great number of shops that were opened and popularized during the Taisho era (1912-1925) proprietors were forced to invent original menu items in order to attract customers. Ice coffee was first introduced onto coffee shop menus during this creative, competitive rush.

After the end of World War II, the importation of coffee into Japan resumed and ice coffee began to appear on coffee shop menus throughout the nation. In the years following, ice coffee became a popular summer item, and the sight of people enjoying it became a regular feature of the summer scenery. Originally coffee was enjoyed because of its fragrance, and it was traditionally served hot, even in the summertime. However, drinking ice coffee seems much more suited for Japan's hot and humid summer climate.

Of course, ice coffee is made in homes as well, but for various reasons-such as having to grind the beans, boil the water, and cool the coffee being too time consuming; instant coffee not being as tasty; and sugar being difficult to dissolve in ice coffee-it has not become as popular at home as in coffee shops.

This all changed with the introduction of ready-to-serve ice coffee in plastic bottles in 1986. Chilling the containers in their own refrigerators, families came to regard ice coffee for the first time as a drink to be enjoyed in their own living rooms.

Over the years, with the introduction of a wide variety of ice coffee products featuring different types of beans, levels of sweetness, and flavors with milk, such as cappucino, ice coffee has increasingly gained popularity as a drink in the home. Adding to its already growing popularity, the intense heat of the summer of 1994 pushed sales of ice coffee for home consumption even higher, with sales reaching a record 25 billion yen. Compared to five years ago, this represents a fivefold growth in sales. It seems certain that ice coffee will continue to hold a place as a favorite beverage in Japanese homes. (The above article, edited by Japan Echo Inc., is based on domestic Japanese news sources. It is offered for reference purposes and does not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.)