Coffee houses in Asia are sometimes very different from the coffees we know in the western world. Nevertheless, they are places of encounter and enjoyment.
Coffee in Japan, the land of green tea
For many foreign visitors, Japan is a different world. Japanese society differs from other cultures in many ways. This is also reflected in the coffee houses.
Kissats, traditional coffee houses
Kissaten are the traditional coffee shops of Japan where time seems to stand still. The oldest Kissaten is located in the Ginza district of Tokyo and opened its doors in 1911.
Kissates exhibit the following characteristics:
- Like small bars in Japan, Kissaten are usually run or managed by one person or a couple. Therefore, they are mostly small and very cozy places.
- Unlike the big coffee chains, the interior in Kissaten is fundamentally different from all others, as the interior style usually simply corresponds to the taste of the owner.
- As for the coffee, many owners create a custom coffee menu that includes beans from around the world.
- Coffee is also often roasted on site before being brewed, with manual brewing methods such as the Nel Drip method being preferred.
- Kissats are places with a relaxed atmosphere, where jazz and bossa nova are often played.
Kissats are an oasis of calm and an escape from the chaos of the city.
The land of canned coffee
In Japan, there are vending machines on almost every street corner in major cities. You can buy canned coffee from these machines and there is a good selection. But Japan is the only country where you can choose between hot and cold canned coffee.
One might therefore wonder if canned coffee is part of “Japanese coffee culture”, but in fact the Japanese invented the first canned coffee, for convenience and because they like coffee so much.
Coffee houses in Korea
In Korea, you will mostly find cafés from large franchise companies such as e.g.:
- A Twosome Place
- Paik’s Coffee
- Angel-in-us, Coffee Bay
- Holly’s Coffee, Coffee Bean
- Tom N Tom’s Coffee
- Paris Baguette
- Tours Les Jours
The most prevalent franchise is Diya Coffee with over 2,400 stores nationwide, followed by Starbucks with 1,300 stores.
Independent coffee shops in Korea
It is important to note that the essence of “Hallyu” coffee culture is not found in these franchises but in the independent coffee shops.
Cafes, Korea and Themes
The following themes of Hallyu culture can be found:
Traditional coffee house in Korea
The traditional themed cafes in Korea usually consist of a traditional Korean house or garden. So, when you visit such cafes, you might feel like you have gone back in time.
Wildlife cafe in Korea
As the name suggests, these are cafes where you can find animals, mostly pets, such as dogs, cats and even raccoons.
Nature coffee house in Korea
Now we switch from the animal world to the flora. So, if you are a nature and plant lover, you will like these coffee houses. Plants sometimes hang from the ceiling and you can find amazing gardens or even trees in the premises.
Characters coffee house in Korea
Last but not least, there are the cafés that deal with the characters. Most of the time you can find cafes themed after your favorite characters, series, movies and games. For example, you can find cafes with characters like Harry Potter, BTS or even the poop emoji.
Coffee shops in Taiwan
In recent years, coffee shops have firmly established themselves in Taipei’s culture and have become entertainment venues for people of all ages.
Japanese coffee is too watery by Taiwanese standards. Their tradition avoids blending coffee beans to ensure the consistent flavor of a particular variety. For brewing, the drip method or a vacuum jug, also called a siphon jug, are preferred.
Coffee shops, coffee house and 3D drawings
A coffee shop in Kaohsiung, Taiwan is famous for making coffee using foam 3D models.
The owner of My Cofi, Zhang Guifan, can make any character you like. Guests can bring a photo and the figurines will be made afterwards.
Singapore and coffee houses
When you visit Singapore, you are allowed to have a good coffee at Kopi Don’t miss Tiam, a popular and typical buffet restaurant in this Asian metropolis. It is an important part of the social life of local people.
Kopitiam or kopi tiam is a traditional coffee shop found in various parts of Malaysia and Singapore in Southeast Asia. The word is a combination of two other words: kopi, the Hokkien / Malay dialect sound for coffee, and tiam, meaning shop or trade.
Copy tiam serves hearty breakfasts and lunches with eggs, toast and kaya (fruit jam, coconut milk and eggs), and of course great coffee. There is also a large selection of teas.
Copy tiam can be found in every residential area in Singapore, but also in some industrial or financial areas. It is believed that there are more than 2,000. They are often lined up as densely as a food court in a mall.
In these cafes, the owners usually offer coffee, tea, herbal teas, drinks and simple but hearty meals.
Cafes and culture in China
These cafes are famous for their sweet buns and lattes in the morning and evening. Most of these sweet buns are still made using traditional methods.
A variety of Mexican breakfast dishes are also available throughout the day, including eggs, tapas, enchiladas, and chili. At lunchtime, normal dishes and inexpensive menus are sold. Interestingly, only a small portion of the menu is in Chinese, and only a small portion of the customers who visit these places order Chinese food.
Starbucks as a flagship franchise
Estimates for Starbucks growth in China are very encouraging. At least 500 new stores are expected to open annually by 2022, and by then it could be around 6,000. Although the word “coffee” is associated with Western culture, coffee has been cultivated in China for more than a century.
It all started when a French missionary introduced cultivation in Yunnan province in the late 19th century. Today, it is estimated that more coffee is grown in China than in Kenya and Tanzania combined.
While 3-in-1 coffee remains the most popular (a blend of coffee, creamer and sweetener), tastes are changing and coffee culture and barista craftsmanship have increased.
After first opening overseas (Tokyo, 1996), Starbucks quickly expanded into China, opening a drive-through restaurant in Beijing in 1999.