Coffee is usually served in a regular sized cup, although chains offer larger sizes. Espresso is not very common. Japanese drink their coffee hot or, especially nice on a hot day, cold. This is known as ?ice coffee?. Ordering coffee after a meal is not something Japanese people do. Coffee is drunk during the day for an energy boost, as a refreshing drink or with something sweet in de company of friends or when on a date.
The high end caf?s are usually well known Japanese or French patisseries, or tie-in with high end brands like Godiva or Elle. It?s all about amazing pastries, chocolate and cakes. Coffee is just something to drink with it. These caf?s tend to be quite expensive and are more suited for meeting friends, usually girlfriends since most Japanese man don?t like sweets since they believe it is too feminine.
My favorite is Sol Levante, an Italian style caf? in Ometesando. The sweets are not too big and you can get a real Italian espresso while standing at the counter. Also, the patterns they draw on the foam layer of a cappuccino have to be seen to be believed.
The most popular chain in Japan is Starbucks, thesy can be found absolutly everywhere. I use to visit Starbucks a lot, mainly because of the comfortable chairs, WiFi (through FON for 100 yen an hour) and the deal that you can get the same drink at any branch later in the day for 100 yen. But since I can now access the Internet through my phone and have discovered cheaper options, I no longer come there. Most of the stuff they serve has nothing to do with coffee anyway. Last time I walked past one they where promoting a white pudding vanille frappee thing with whipped cream(!). Although I still want to buy a special mug the only sell in Kyoto next time I'm there.
Other Japanese chains are Dutour and Tully where you can get different kinds of hot or cold coffee and some simple pastries to go with it. Nothing to fancy but relatively cheap places to sit and kill some time when you are waiting for somebody.
My favorite, and by far the cheapest place to get (good) coffee on-the-go is McCafe, a coffee-house-style food and drink chain owned by McDonald's that offers a cup of coffee for 100 yen. That?s even cheaper than vending machines!
All the above mentioned chains offer coffee on the go, which is usually a cardboard cup with a plastic plastic lid. Now, I think these are a little bit unpractical. In my opinion, the better and cheaper option for having coffee on-the-go is a can of coffee from a vending machine or convenience store known as konbini's?(????). But first a word of warning: drinking canned coffee is associated with salaryman who are always in a rush, you never see woman drink these.
Vending machines are everywhere in Japan! And they sell every kind of drink you could want: water, energy drinks, sodas, juice, tea and?coffee! Coffee is sold in cans and can be either hot or cold. Usually heated cans are offerend in the autumn and winter, and cold cans in the warm months. At first I didn?t know you could also get hot drinks out of a vending machine, I just thought the red lights next to the cans on display where to indicate that these where not available. These hot can are not only great for a drink but can also be used to warm your hands in winter!
At first the amount choice may seem overwhelming with many different brands and types of coffee. Very common is "milk coffee," which includes milk and is generally quite sweet. Black coffee is also popular, as are "low sugar" coffees, cafe au lait, and milk coffee without sugar. So it is usefull to know the characters for the main categories: black, milk and sugar.
The most popular brand of canned coffee is Boss coffee from Santory. The brandname, logo and slogan (?Boss coffee is the boss of them all since 1992?) can be seen everywhere and is just too cool. I mean, naming your brand ?Boss? is like a car brand calling itself ?Awesome?. This is farther inhenced by the use Tommy Lee Jones as a spokesperson, which is a briljant piece of marketing since he could beat up Nespresso?s George Clooney any day of the week. Other popular brands are UCC, Fire and Georgia.
Last but not least, if you are staying in a minshiku or business hotel, instant coffee like Nescaf? is a good option since rooms usually have a waterboiler available. Instant coffee either comes in a big pot you can use multiple times or one off cups that contain coffee, milk and sugar. These can be bought in?konbini's?that can be found on every street corner in Japan.