How to Order Coffee in Japan: A Guide to Navigating Japanese Coffee Culture

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world and holds a special place in many cultures. When it comes to ordering coffee, each country has its own unique customs and preferences. In Japan, coffee is not just a drink; it is an experience that is deeply ingrained in the country’s culture. If you are a coffee lover planning to visit Japan, it is essential to understand the intricacies of Japanese coffee culture and know how to order coffee in Japan. In this guide, I will walk you through the process of navigating the Japanese coffee culture, from finding the right coffee shop to ordering your preferred coffee beverage.

Finding a Coffee Shop

The first step in ordering coffee in Japan is finding a coffee shop that suits your taste and preferences. While there are numerous coffee chains like Starbucks and Tully’s, exploring local coffee shops will give you a more authentic experience. Look out for specialized coffee shops that serve handcrafted coffee using single-origin beans. These shops are often cozy and provide a tranquil atmosphere for coffee enthusiasts.

Understanding the Menu

Once you have found your ideal coffee shop, it is time to decipher the menu. Japanese coffee menus can be overwhelming, especially if you are unfamiliar with the language. However, most coffee shops in Japan have embraced English translations to cater to international visitors. Take your time to read the menu carefully, as it will provide you with valuable information about the type of coffee beans, brewing methods, and flavor profiles available.

Types of Coffee

In Japan, you will encounter various types of coffee, each with its own unique characteristics. Here are some popular choices:

1. Drip Coffee: This is the most common coffee type in Japan, often served in a single-serve filter. Drip coffee is known for its clean and smooth taste.

2. Espresso: Japanese espresso is a concentrated form of coffee that is brewed by forcing hot water through finely ground coffee beans. It is the base for several coffee variations like cappuccinos and lattes.

3. Americano: Similar to drip coffee, an Americano is made by adding hot water to espresso shots. It is a milder choice for those who prefer a larger cup of coffee.

4. Cafe Latte: A popular choice among coffee lovers, cafe latte consists of espresso shots topped with steamed milk. It is often decorated with latte art, making it visually appealing.

5. Matcha Latte: For those seeking a unique twist, matcha latte combines Japanese green tea powder, called matcha, with steamed milk. It offers a delicate balance of bitterness and sweetness.

Ordering Process

Once you have decided on the type of coffee, it is time to place your order. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the ordering process in Japan:


When entering a coffee shop, it is customary to greet the staff with a polite “Konnichiwa” (Hello) or “Irasshaimase” (Welcome). This sets a friendly tone for your interaction.

Decide on Beverage

After greeting the staff, take a moment to decide on the coffee beverage you want to order. Remember the type of coffee you previously selected and any modifications you prefer, such as adding sugar or opting for non-dairy milk.

Expressing Your Order

Once you are ready to order, use polite phrases like “Sumimasen” (Excuse me) or “Onegaishimasu” (Please) to get the staff’s attention. State the name of the coffee beverage, followed by “kudasai” (please). For example, if you want to order a cafe latte, say “Cafe Latte kudasai.”


After placing your order, the staff will inform you of the total amount. Payment is typically made at the counter. Japanese coffee shops often accept cash, but some also accept credit cards. It is a good idea to carry some cash, especially when visiting smaller coffee shops.

Etiquette and Appreciation

In Japan, expressing gratitude and appreciation is essential. When your coffee is served, express your thanks by saying “Arigatou gozaimasu” (Thank you very much). Take a moment to appreciate the presentation and aroma of your coffee before enjoying it.

Etiquette and Customs

Apart from the ordering process, there are a few more etiquette tips to keep in mind when experiencing Japanese coffee culture:

1. No tipping: Unlike in some other countries, tipping is not customary in Japan. The price listed on the menu is the final amount you need to pay.

2. Smoking areas: Many coffee shops in Japan have separate areas for smokers and non-smokers. Respect the designated areas and be mindful of others’ preferences.

3. Exploring coffee shops: Japan is renowned for its unique coffee shop designs and concepts. Take the time to explore different coffee shops to get a taste of the diversity within Japanese coffee culture.

4. Silence and relaxation: Japanese coffee shops often offer a calm and soothing ambiance. Maintain a respectful volume when conversing, and refrain from using loud electronic devices.

5. Reusable cups: To promote sustainability, some coffee shops in Japan offer discounts if you bring your own reusable cup. Consider bringing one along and contribute to reducing waste.


Ordering coffee in Japan is an art in itself, as it combines the appreciation for exquisite flavors with cultural customs. By understanding the types of coffee available, learning the ordering process, and respecting the etiquette, you can fully immerse yourself in the unique Japanese coffee culture. So, the next time you find yourself in a coffee shop in Japan, take a moment to savor the aroma, explore the menu, and order your preferred coffee with confidence.

Leave a Comment