- How to Say Coffee in Japanese?
- Where does the Japanese pronunciation of the word come from?
- How to order coffee in Japan?
- Greetings at the Japanese coffee shop
- Coffee types and what to expect in when you order them in Japan
- Coffee culture in Japan
How to Say Coffee in Japanese?
The word for “coffee” in Japanese is “コーヒー kōhii”.
To say it so people understand it in Japan, you’ve really got to pay attention to all those extending lines that tell you to drag out the sounds of both “ko” and “hii“.
Coffee is something that shouldn’t be rushed, right? This is true of its pronunciation in Japan also!
Read on, oxidental coffee enthusiasts.
Where does the Japanese pronunciation of the word come from?
Kohii, is derived from the Dutch word “koffie”. This makes sense, as the bitter brown stuff had been brought to Japan by Dutch traders around the year 1700.
There is evidence to suggest that the Dutch pronunciation of “f” was closer to an English “h” sound at that time. So the Japanese actually came up with a pretty good approximation.
How to order coffee in Japan?
It can be intimidating ordering coffee in a foreign country. There is no shortage of variations of different phrases you might hear or use yourself in a coffee shop in Japan.
The easiest way to order coffee in Japan
We’ll outline a bunch of these below but the easiest way to order is just to say:
You could also say:
One coffee, please.
That’s really enough to get you served. If you want to be able to order different options, or understand more is what is likely to be said to you read on.
Greetings at the Japanese coffee shop
Hi there! What can I get for you?
irasshaimase ！ go chūmon wa ？
“What would you like to order？”
go chūmon wa nani ga yoroshīdeshō ka ？
“Are you ready to order？”
go chūmon yoroshīdesu ka ？
“Hello. I’d like a small latte, please.”
” konnichiha , sumōru no rate o onegai shimasu “
“Could I have a medium coffee for take away?”
” midiamu no kōhī o moraemasu ka ？ “
“I’d like a latte.”
rate o hitotsu kudasai .
“Can I get a large mocha to have here?”
” rāji no moka o tennai de “
“Can I get a decaf latte？”
kafein nuki no rate （ kaferate ） o moraemasu ka ？
“I’ll have a medium coffee please.”
midiamusaizu no kōhī wo onegai shimasu
“ I’d like a large green tea, please.”
rāji no ryokucha o onegai shimasu
“I’d like an espresso please.“
esupuresso o itadakimasu
“Yes please. / No thank you.”
hai , onegai shimasu / īe kekkōdesu
“What size do you want？”
dono saizu ni shimasu ka ？
What size would you like?
saizu wa dō nasaimasu ka ？
“A (small/medium/large), please.”
（ sumōru ／ midiamu ／ rāji ） de onegai shimasu
Anything else besides the drink?
dorinku no hoka ni wa ikagadesu ka ？
Finishing up and collecting your coffee
“No, thanks. That’s all.”
sore dake de kekkōdesu
“Have here or take away？”
tennai de meshiagarimasu ka , soretomo o mochikaeridesu ka ？
“Take away, please.”
mochikaeri de onegai shimasu
“Have here, please.”
tennai de onegai shimasu
“Please wait at the corner over there for your coffee. Thank you！ Have a wonderful day.”
soko no kōnā de go chūmon no kōhī o omachikudasai . arigatōgozaimashita ！
Coffee types and what to expect in when you order them in Japan
What is a “latte” in Japan?
A “latte” is usually referred to by its non-abbreviated name as カフェラテ (Kafe Rate) but shortened more and more as ラテ (rate) in Japan recent years.
What is a Café au lait in Japan?
Café au lait in Japan is made by pouring coffee into a cup and then topping it off with hot milk. The taste of the café au lait depends on the type of coffee brewed; strong black coffee will create a much stronger taste than milder varieties such as espresso.
A Café au lait in Japan is a drink that consists of coffee and milk. The ratio of coffee to milk varies, but the most common ratio is 1:2.
Other words you commonly hear include:
ドリップコーヒー (Dorippu ko-hii)
The native Japanese word for soy milk is 豆乳 (tounyu)
but also used as an English loan word as ソイミルク (Soi miruku)
Espresso coffee with hot water added
Espresso with a small amount of steamed milk
Espresso with a small amount of steamed milk and frothy top
Espresso with a lot of steam milk
Espresso mixed with ice or foam milk
Latte with chocolate syrup
Frothed up heated milk with some kind of sweet flavor added.
The use of honorifics at the Japanese cafe
Like English, the Japanese language has plenty of words for coffee. It also has plenty of ways to order it.
The other thing that may trip you up if you’re a beginner Japanese learner is that the language they will use with you is very polite. You’ll hear lots of “o”s and “go”s tacked onto the front of words as honorifics. Many of the phrases listed above are also only used in polite speech.
Hey, Japanese are polite people, what are you gonna do?
If you want to get some of that sweet Japanese-style iced coffee, or just a good old hot coffee to consumate your Japanese coffee experience, then you’re gonna have to figure it ou.
Coffee culture in Japan
Let’s take a moment to reflect on that “1700” year of the introduction of coffee to Japan. That means Japan has had coffee for more than three centuries. They can pronounce coffee whatever way they like after that amount of time.
The history of coffee in Japan
The Dutch bought the drink with them in the 18th century, but it was pretty much just them and the few Japanese “yujo”, or play-women, that were allowed to visit them, the exotic coffee beans mixed with hot water. In the 250 year era of “sakkoku” closed Japan, foreign ideas, or foodstuffs, didn’t spread so well.
One of the first coffee shops in Tokyo post the re-opening of Japan to foreign contacted, opened in 1888. The shop only managed to last around five years, presumably because they were having trouble selling the merits of consuming a brown viscous liquid that tasted bitter and looked like mud.
Coffee didn’t get its next big break until 1933 for “Japan’s father of coffee” Tadao Ueshima to establish his successful Ueshima Tadao Shoten coffee shop.
He didn’t get a good run at it though, with the Japanese government choosing to ban coffee during the second world war.
So it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that commercial coffee production became popular. Initially, coffee was mainly imported from America and Europe, but by 1945, Japanese companies had taken over the import business. Today, Japan is one of the largest importers of the mystical bitter bean in the world.
Hopefully, this will help you if you are trying to get yourself a cup of joe to help you rise and shine in the land of the rising sun. Coffee makes the world go around. And tea. Or green tea. Or something.
If you are too shy to venture out to the Japanese cafe, check out our post on Japanese Coffee Makers.