In Okinawa, as summer approaches, the mornings are getting much warmer and the desire for an iced cafe latte grows stronger. Starbucks is too expensive, so where is the best deal for an iced coffee drink? Lawson conbini!
コンビニ conbini (or konbini) means convenience store. Lawson is a major chain of conbini throughout Japan. Conbini in Japan are amazing, and nothing like what you see stateside! But I will not get into all those details now. Right now, I will focus on Lawson’s machi cafe line.
Inside every Lawson, you can order several types of coffee drinks from the counter. My favorite during summer, of course, is an iced cafe latte アイスカフェラテ. I have tried iced cafe lattes all around the island, but I have found that the best priced (and consistently good tasting) one is at Lawson conbini, for a mere 150円. Comparing this to Starbucks which is usually more than 300円, I would say this is much more reasonable. FamilyMart, another large country-wide conbini chain, has iced cafe lattes for 180円, a little bit more than Lawson (but, also pretty darn good). In Okinawa, there is the occasional Tully’s (but they are not very common) and a scant few other chains with only one location about (Saint Marc ChocoCro, Doutor, Key Coffee), but they are so few and far between that I am rarely anywhere near them. There is the Climax Coffee chain, located on the other side of the island from me, similar to a Starbucks (similar price, too). There are several small independent shops which also have cafe lattes, but they tend to be fairly expensive, so while very good quality… simply not an everyday drink.
So when it comes down to affordability, taste and convenience for an iced cafe latte, Lawson wins.
Plus for you those of you who desire less caffeine… they just released a 97% caffeine cut series (basically, decaf) as of May 2017! This is great news for my husband, who can now enjoy an iced latte in the afternoon without worrying about caffeine.
Japanese coffee vocabulary: the best part is that it is almost always katakana!
コーヒー ko-hi coffee 珈琲 ko-hi- coffee (the kanji is based on the sounds not the meaning) ブレンド burendo blend アイス aisu iced フローズン furo-zun frozen ホット hotto hot カフェラテ kafe rate cafe latte カフェモカ kafe moka cafe mocha 抹茶ラテ maccha rate matcha (green tea) latte ロイヤルミルクティー roiyaru miruku ti- royal milk tea ココア kokoa cocoa アールグレイティー a-rugurei ti- Earl Grey tea 砂糖 satou sugar 砂糖なし** satou nashi: without sugar クリーム kuri-mu cream シロップ shiroppu sugar in syrup (liquid) form **なし nashi means "without"-- a very useful word!!