Friday 19 July 2013

Coffee Shops in Japan (updated March 2021)

Updated March 2021

If you want anything other than black coffee, then head to Starbucks, Tully’s or Doutor. Even though Japan is probably the last place on Earth you’d expect your soy order to be confused, just to be extra careful the cashier staff give a ‘soy’ card to the customer, which is returned to the barrister upon collection of the drink. At Starbucks there is a (vegan) Soy Latte as a separate menu item, and at both cafes, other drinks such as Matcha (Japanese tea) lattes can be made with soymilk for an additional ¥50. 

Like most white sugar used in Japan, the sugar used in drinks is probably processed using bone char. Starbucks recently confirmed that their sugar is processed with chitosan, a substance obtained from crustaceans which is widely used in the food industry (including being sprayed on bananas) and in many industrial applications. 

Most major coffee shop chains (including Starbucks and Tully’s) offer free Wifi, but many smaller coffee shops don’t. 

Starbucks (🐖)

This card is given at the counter and returned upon receiving the drink - a sure way to know that you're soy drink really is. 

In early 2020 Starbucks trialled almond milk and oat milk, but these have been discontinued in all except a few special stores. While this could change with the growing number of vegans and health-conscious people avoiding dairy products, the hot chocolate mixture itself still contains dairy, but most staff don’t know this and will happily make a “soy hot chocolate” (with dairy in the mix) if asked. 

Tully's  (🐖)

Tully’s are fast becoming the go-to option for a coffee and quite bite to eat for vegans. In early 2021 they have re-introduced an almond praline soy latte, which has a mock whipped cream topping. There has been much effort by the vegan community (especially the excellent ➚➚ group and their ➚Facebook page➚) to determine whether or not it is vegan. It appears that it contains only plant-based ingredients, but it has allergen warnings for dairy, and unfortunately the company won’t confirm whether this warning is because of possible traces of dairy from cross contamination or whether a tiny amount of dairy is added somewhere in the manufacturing process. Most vegans trust that it is vegan. 
They have also recently introduced a falafel pita sandwich for ¥400. It contains literally only one falafel ball, making it no match for falafel offered by vegan falafel restaurants in Tokyo (such as Falafel Brothers in Roppongi) but it’s next best after Dotour (see below) so far as coffee shop chains in Japan go.  Their tomato sauce pasta can be made vegan if the bacon is left off the top (it’s normally added at the end) but I only recommend this to Japanese-speaking vegans who are able to confirm that it’s vegan with the staff. 

Doutor (🐖)

In September 2020 the large Doutor coffee chain began offering a vegan (“Green”) burger. It’s been a big hit with the vegan community, and is well priced at only ¥360, making it one of the best go-to snacks available in Japan. Hopefully it will be here to stay. Doutor’s coffee and dining experience is overall cheaper and inferior to Starbucks and Tully’s, but this burger makes it by far the best chain store for vegans. 


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