Have you tried buying coffee at a CVS yet?
Every time you stop by a convenience store in Japan, you might be surprised by its service and variety of products. Since the 1st CVS opened in Japan, they have continued to develop for over 40 years, and have become literally convenient. They even have several kinds of canned drinks, including coffee. The famous CVS chains also sell brewed coffee at a low price, and sales have been increasing. Because of the good sales, other shops also follow the CVS: conveyor belt sushi, fast food, etc. Customers who like CVS coffee want to grab it as soon as possible because most of them want to drink “brewed” coffee even if they don’t have enough time to stop by a coffee shop (though drive thru’s are available at some locations these days), don’t really like “canned” coffee, are in the car, etc. Plus, the price of CVS coffee starts at only 100 yen, which is another reason people choose CVS coffee. Here are some picks of CVS coffee which is available nationwide; you should know which ones stand out, and how to buy them.
Basic Purchasing Procedure for CVS Coffee
Excluding a few CVS, you have to operate the coffee machine next to the cashier by yourself. When you want to get hot coffee, you need to order at the cashier and receive a paper cup. Plastic cups for iced coffee are put in refrigerated showcase, and you need to bring it to the cashier. Because you have to choose a cup for it, you need to pay attention to kind of drink and size indicated on the lid: iced coffee, iced caffe latte, etc.
After you pay, set your cup under the machine and press the button of the type of coffee you have chosen. It takes a bit to brew, and you can pick up your coffee once the alarm goes off. Directions are included on the machine, but you can always ask the staff for help. The beans are milled one by one, and every time someone makes coffee there, the beans’ rich aroma always spreads around the machine. After brewing is completed, you may pick up a lid, straw, sugar, and cream by yourself (don’t take more than necessary).
You don’t have to make coffee (or tea, cocoa, matcha latte, etc.) by yourself at some CVS, because the staff occasionally do it for you.
Seven Café by 7-11 – The Pioneer of CVS Coffee
7-11 is the 1st CVS which started serving brewed coffee at the store. Because the Seven Café, its own brewed coffee product, was be the pioneering product, its lineup was simple for a long time: blend coffee and iced coffee. It is not too much to say that 7-11 established the serving style. The low price is also one of the features of Seven Café. Both brewed and iced coffee cost only 100 or 150 yen (its price varies by size), and a café latte is slightly more expensive. Hot caffe latte is served sweetened, but iced versions are served as non-sweet (except during special promotions).
Incidentally, 7-11 also offers “Seven Café Donuts”, which go well with its coffee. It might be unbelievable to you, but Japanese people also like to eat donuts with coffee for breakfast or snack (some donuts shops are also serving morning donuts combo). Its donuts are sold from the showcase in front of the cashier, next to the hot snacks. Because their price is low and it is easy to order, CVS donuts have become popular and threaten donuts shops lately, and that is why CVS coffee has spread to other chains.
For more info: www.sej.co.jp/i/products/sevencafe/ (Japanese only).
Machi Café by Lawson – Abundant Variety
Lawson has also served brewed coffee and sweets at its Machi Café. It has a totally different feature from any other CVS: all beverages are served by the staff. This means they always operate the coffee machine, and you don’t have to use it.
Furthermore, Machi Café also proudly offers abundant variety in both beverages and food. Not only coffee and café latte, it also has tea, cocoa, and green tea latte, both hot and iced. Plus, it has several foods from pastries to butter cake. It might be good for a light lunch if you choose a sausage croissant or cheese biscuit with bacon or edamame. Although these foods are displayed in front of the cashier at 7-11, Machi Café foods are sold in the sweets/bakery section.
Because other sweets groups with similar names are sold in the same section, you need to pay attention to the name of products. Moreover, decaf beverages are now available for coffee and caffe latte, and you might be able to drink them if you worry about going to restroom often, or wish to avoid caffeine for whatever reason.
For more info: www.lawson.co.jp/recommend/machicafe/index.html (Japanese only).
FamiMa Café by FamilyMart/Circle K Sunkus – Enjoy Seasonal Flavors
FamiMa Café used to be served at FamilyMart alone. However, since it and Circle K Sunkus have integrated operations, you can get these beverages at Circle K and Sunkus, too (you might have seen these stores reopening as FamilyMart). Every CVS is particular about the place of production of its coffee beans and roasting/brewing method, and FamiMa Café is also using its own original blend.
FamiMa Café also has seasonal beverages. In the summer, frozen beverages (“frappe”) are available, and chocolate latte appears during the winter. Unlike coffee shops, they have only one size, and it may or may not be enough for you. However, these beverages are good as both drink and dessert. In addition, FamiMa sells its own donuts series named “FamiMa Donuts”. Although the variety is less than 7-11 or Lawson, it is still satisfying to eat with coffee.
The purchasing procedures at FamiMa are the same as 7-11, and you can also make frappe and chocolate latte by yourself (If you choose chocolate, the staff gives you a paper cup and extra chocolate for the latte).
More info: www.family.co.jp/goods/cafe.html (Japanese only).
Yuko / JAPAN