Saturday, January 19, 2013

Review: Ko-hi-kan, Asakusa

One of the surprising things to many people on arrival in Japan is how good the coffee is. You might think being an Asian nation that they're tea-centric but while there are the occasional bubble tea joints coffee is truly king in Japan. Coffee chains are just about everywhere and they're usually a great place to stop while travelling as they often have wi fi access and power points available.

Most coffee in Japan is of the strong long black variety, brewed but espresso strength. European style coffee houses and the influx of Starbucks has also increased the availability of steamed milk espresso drinks.

Coffee is also ubiquitous, they have it for breakfast they have it with dinner, they have it hot and cold, they have it at cafes and they have it in vending machines.

Ko-hi-kan means "Coffee Museum" which is elevating it a little bit, it is a coffee chain just a damn good one. Their standard brewed coffee blend can be bought for 450Y but for an extra 50 - 100Y it's worth investigating their "specialty coffee" which means a choice of siphon brewed coffee or single origin specialty coffees.

Nicaraguan Single Origin Siphon Brewed Coffee 500Y

The coffee is served the same way everywhere in Japan - hot, strong and with cream and sugar. One strange thing I find is that despite the otherwise immaculate approach to coffee they use white sugar with everything, not a raw sugar crystal to be found. 

Nonetheless this coffee is frankly *delicious* and surprisingly so, so much so that I make delighted noises and look at my partner who is looking at his coffee in as much shock as I am. This is easily the best cup of coffee I've had in months, maybe years. Even the china and silverware is fine quality, this is 500Y worth of heaven. 

Kohikan blend Iced Coffee 450Y

Coffee is served the same way whether it's hot or cold in Japan, so be prepared to pick a temperature choice when asking for coffee. This means you are expected to add sugar and cream to your iced coffee to  taste, something I prefer over the 'death by sugar' approach to iced coffee in the US. Sweetness is provided for iced coffee using sugar simple syrup (or "gum syrup" as they call it) since granulated sugar won't dissolve in the cold liquid. 

Other drinks were available like green tea lattes, iced coffees with ice cream and other fancies but honestly that brewed coffee was so damn good we couldn't get past it and it looked like the other patrons agreed. The only people I saw with other drinks were children fed sugary sweet drinks while site seeing. 

Morning Set 150Y with a coffee

If 500Y sounds pricey for a coffee then consider getting it with breakfast. 150Y on top of your coffee will get you a decent sized breakfast. In this case that means 650Y (around 7USD) for toast, salad, eggs and coffee. Delicious coffee. 

Lunch set 780Y including coffee

We came back to Kohikan for the coffee a few times so we investigated their lunch menu as well. It's not as good value in my mind but if you're looking for something predictable and good quality or you're just sick of Japanese food this would make a good option. In this case it's a ham and egg salad toasted sandwich, salad and a drink for around 8.50USD. 

All in all? Amazing coffee, worth stopping for if you find a location, good service and immaculately clean (but you begin to expect that everywhere in Japan). If you're looking for a decent quality breakfast with a good cup of coffee to fuel you before site seeing I almost can't recommend better in Japan. A++ would buy again. 


High end chain coffee
Multiple locations throughout Japan

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  1. I agree about the WOW factor of Kohikan coffee. I just returned from Japan and was delighted by the siphon coffee at Kohikan. Charming shop, too.

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