Key Coffee


Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.

A Mitsuwa market (a Japanese grocery chain) opened near my home, and I was thrilled. I like sushi, I like ramen, and I'm all for experimenting, so it sounded perfect for me. What I didn't expect were so many packages with contents I couldn't quite guess at. 

While I could suss out the contents of freshly made food, bakery items, and produce, an opaque package required some sleuthing. Lucky for me, while many package were covered in Japanese writing, ingredients were always listed in English, even if they didn't quite make sense (it turns out Japan has some weird food additives, too). So, when I found a box that seemed pretty cut-and-dry, ingredients-wise, I was all for it. 

Coffee and water made up the complete ingredient list on my red box of Key Coffee (the blue box had artificial creamer in it, I think). Japan isn't the first country I think of when I think of coffee, but America isn't, either (sorry, Starbucks). It seemed worth a shot. If wine in a box has become a thing, coffee in a box is probably fine. Oh, and the three words I could read on the box? Key, coffee, and water. 

Key Coffee ingredientsPhoto credit: Cheapism

Getting my morning cuppa from Key Coffee was easier than brewing coffee at home, I'll admit. I opened the box, I poured, I added some milk, done. And while I still don't put Japan at the top of my list for coffee, it wasn't bad. (And yes, I did drink it out of a glass Starbucks container. I may not like the coffee but the chain has cute dishware.)  

It was kinda bitter, but I don't expect more from coffee I poured from a box, to be honest. It was OK. It was a little flat (I was admittedly drinking it cold) but it had a strong coffee flavor and no notes of artificiality. There was no doubt it was the real thing, box or not.

CoffeePhoto credit: Cheapism

For me, Key Coffee was better than either Starbucks' or McDonald's cold brew, which I've found either burnt-tasting (Starbucks) or watery (McDonald's). Considering how many people pay good money for that awful stuff, I considered Key Coffee a win. Best of all, my experiment was cheap. Key Coffee was on sale for $2.99. Not bad for three 12-ounce servings.

The coffee wasn't the most unusual item I tossed in my basket, which also included a fair amount of pre-sliced lotus root — the bigger score — a few boxes of Pocky sticks, and a Hello Kitty-branded box of cookies for my kids. I may not have been able to read all the packages without some effort (I am still looking for a specific kind of noodle that I know is there), but it was an adventure worth taking. 

And, bonus: The coffee wasn't bad, either. 

Want more Cheapism in your inboxSign up for our free newsletters.

Cheapism in the News