blue bottle japan vending


Canned coffee is the norm in Japan, thanks to the abundance of vending machines nationwide. Coffee drinkers could easily get their caffeine fix for as cheap as ¥100 within a minute’s walk down any Japanese street, choosing from several brands and varieties.

In August last year, Californian specialty coffee brand Blue Bottle installed their first vending machines in the Shibuya neighbourhood of Tokyo. When the machine was installed, the coffee company hadn’t opened a store in this part of the city yet — which is one of the busiest and liveliest neighbourhoods in the city — making it the perfect location for the vending machines called Blue Bottle Quick Stand.  

An 8 ounce can of brewed coffee is priced at ¥640 ($5.83), which is about six times the price of a usual canned coffee.

In addition to canned coffee, the vending machines sold whole beans, cups and mugs. An 8 ounce can of brewed coffee is priced at ¥640 ($5.83), which is about six times the price of a usual canned coffee. However, according to Blue Bottle Coffee Japan’s PR manager Megumi Yoshida:

The response from the consumers are quite good so far. We keep promoting the joy of specialty coffee as much as we can, and we view a vending machine as one of the useful and established sales channels in Japan which can offer fast and practical service.

The plan to utilise the vending machines to distribute their products was already in the works since before the pandemic outbreak, but with more people staying at home because of the spread of COVID-19, the vending machines also worked successfully as a convenient place for customers to purchase coffee beans and brewing them at home.

However, from personally visiting the site a month ago, one of the vending machines had silently been removed. The products offered have changed as well. The canned coffees and whole coffee beans remained, but the mugs and cups were replaced with instant coffee bags and yokan, a type of Japanese confectionery. 

Since the instalment of Blue Bottle Quick Stand in August 2020, the coffee company has opened their very first Shibuya cafe, adding to a total of 21 cafes nationwide. The company had hopes of expanding their vending machines to more locations in Japan if successful, but the closure of one of their original two seems to show the opposite result. 

A unique aspect of Japan’s coffee culture is its combination of vending machine coffee and specialty coffee shops — there’s a demand for quick and inexpensive instant coffee but there’s also a buzz around specialty coffee. Most locals are content with a cheap and quick caffeine fix from machines but Blue Bottle has yet to prove the market will pay such a premium; for that same price at a cafe, however, most wouldn’t bat an eyelid. 

It goes to show that most would prefer to spend their money on the coffee experience of sipping freshly made drip coffee in a cafe setting rather than a busy parking lot, where the Blue Bottle Quick Stand is located.

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