Mr Sato tells us what he thinks of US$6 canned coffee.

Coffee in cans are a mainstay in Japanese vending machines, where they can be purchased hot or cold, and if you’ve ever had one, you’ll know how surprisingly good they taste. What makes them super popular in Japan isn’t just their great taste — nor the fact that American actor Tommy Lee Jones is the “alien” face for one of the country’s biggest brands — but the value for price, as you can usually pick one up for just 110-120 yen (US$1.04-$1.14).

Our Japanese-language reporter Mr Sato is an avid canned coffee drinker who’s tried all sorts of brands and varieties over the years, so when he heard about a set of vending machines that sold cans for 640 yen (US$6.08), he was immediately outraged…and keen to find out how they would taste.

So he headed down to a parking lot in Shibuya, where the vending machines are located, and smirked when he saw they belonged to American coffee chain Blue Bottle Coffee. You see, when Blue Bottle Coffee opened its first branch in Japan in 2015, it drew huge crowds, creating two-hour long queues that Mr Sato indignantly gave up on, leaving him to seek out a cup of Joe at a nearby neighbourhood cafe.

▼ Blue Bottle Coffee now has 18 stores nationwide, mainly in Tokyo. Plus two vending machines in Shibuya.

Despite the chequered past between them, Mr Sato vowed to push any previous grudges aside for an impartial review of Blue Bottle’s canned coffee…even if it did cost six times more than he would usually pay for coffee at a vending machine.

Looking at the display, Mr Sato found that the canned coffee was actually the lowest priced item on offer, as there was also the option to purchase a box of the brand’s instant coffee for 1,620 yen per box, and reusable cups for 1,980 yen.

▼ It’s unusual to see prices this high on most vending machines.

Despite the coin slot on the machine, the only payment accepted is credit card or prepaid e-money cards like Pasmo or Suica.

While that might present a minor inconvenience for some people, Mr Sato had his Suica card charged up with enough money to cover his purchase, so he pressed his card against the reader and selected “Single Origin Cold Brewed Coffee“.

▼ There are two type of Cold Brewed coffees to choose from.

Having grown up with vending machines that play music and offer the chance to win mysterious goods with each purchase, Mr Sato was hoping this expensive machine might come with some unusual bells and whistles as it delivered the product to the tray below.

▼ However, there was no flashy show, as the can came out with a plonk, just as it would at an ordinary machine.

Like the coffee served at all Blue Bottle Coffee stores in Japan, this canned version is roasted and infused at its Japanese roasting plant. The can is 236 millilitres (8 ounces) in size and the expiration date is about one month from the date of purchase.

Well, the time had finally come for Mr Sato to get his first taste of Blue Bottle Coffee in a can. He took a tentative sip, swallowed, and processed the flavour.

There was a sharpness and a richness he’d never tasted before in a canned coffee. In fact, without a shadow of a doubt…this…was…the most delicious canned coffee he had ever tried.

The coffee chain that had previously left a sour taste in his mouth with its long queues so many years ago had now won him back, all with a can of cold coffee.

He didn’t know whether to be pleased or upset about the fact that he now liked Blue Bottle Coffee, but one thing was certain — it was so delicious it deserved to be enjoyed in more beautiful surroundings like a cool cafe, rather than a busy carpark.

Mr Sato recommends enjoying these coffees to the fullest by pouring them into a fancy glass at home, where you can really enjoy the flavours…and get your 640-yen money’s worth.

Now that he’s had a taste of really good luxury canned coffee, there’s no looking back. In fact, maybe he’ll even pay a visit to that Blue Bottle cafe he didn’t get into…and bring his giant 20-pound Starbucks mug with him for a refill.

Vending machine information
Blue Bottle Coffee vending machine / ブルーボトルコーヒー自動販売機
Address: Mitsui Repark Shibuya 1-chome Number 9 Parking Lot (Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku 1-9-14 )
三井のリパーク 渋谷 1丁目第9駐車場(東京都渋谷区1-9-14)

Photos ©SoraNews24
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