The Japanese Coffee Innovation That America Needs ASAP
Japan may be famous for green tea, but the Japanese have taken coffee to the next level with the pour-over method. Similar to the Japanese tea ceremony — but with traditional matcha swapped for a precision cuppa joe — pour-over coffee is a ritual that requires exact measurements, specialized gear, and a reverential hand. But, the elaborate method isn’t always practical for Japan’s hyper-speed lifestyle. Enter the next coffee innovation from the land of the rising sun: instant drip bags.
Coffee snobs usually place instant coffee and pour-over coffee at opposite ends of the drinkability spectrum; the former is either offensively bitter or dishwater-y, while the latter is smooth and complex. But, there is a reason those freeze-dried powder packets still exist in a world with a Starbucks on every block: Instant coffee is cheap and convenient, and a hand-poured cup can be overpriced and fussy. But, Japan’s instant drip bags — every salaryman’s go-to for a caffeine fix since the 1990s — cleverly bring together the finer points of both.
Imagine a tea bag filled with ground coffee, and you basically have the idea — except the bag is cradled in an ingeniously folded, little paper stand, which suspends it over your mug. Simply drizzle in hot water, and you’ve got an instant, single serving of fresh, hand-poured coffee. The only thing missing — other than the hipper-than-thou barista — is a latte-art cat. Give Japan a sec and they’ll probably figure out how to instantize that, too. If the drip-bag process feels over your head (maybe you haven’t had your morning coffee yet),
The super-efficient drip bags are sold in Japanese grocery and convenience stores for dirt cheap — about a buck each. They’re so popular that Starbucks even makes a Japan-only version, called Origami. Connoisseurs can pick up high-end drip bags filled with single-origin beans at trendy coffee shops across Japan — and DIY caffiends can even stuff their own bags at home.
For now, instant drip bags haven’t yet reached the U.S. But, if the stateside success of Japan’s pour-over export is any indicator of the direction that coffee trends flow, we can expect to be drinking drip-bag coffee at our desks sometime soon. Which means your caffeine addiction could be getting a lot more convenient.
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