Starbucks is so popular worldwide that it probably doesn’t need an introduction. However, for those who aren’t aware, it’s an international chain of coffee shops which sells drinks, baked items and light bites. They also happen to have some great options for vegan!
With over 1,600 stores across Japan, it has become a reliable go-to spot for locals and travellers alike. Being one of the few cafes with early openings and late closing times, it has come to our rescue on many occasions!
However, there are a few things you should probably know before visiting this chain cafe in Japan. So, sit back, grab a coffee and let’s get into it!
Starbucks in Japan
For those travelling to Japan, if you’re familiar with Starbucks’ quality and taste, you know what to expect, so you know you won’t be disappointed when you need that early morning caffeine fix.
The drink menu items are pretty much the same with a lot of English signage, making things easier. And as the names of the drinks are similar, you don’t necessarily need to speak Japanese to be able to order your drinks. The baristas are already familiar with those words. (Although it would be handy to know even a little bit!)
One of the reasons Starbucks is so popular is driven by its ever-changing seasonal and limited edition drinks and merch which is often only available in Japan.
They have very delicious and attractive-looking seasonal drinks on offer however, a lot of the time, it’s not suitable for vegans. So, it’s worth checking their allergen chart which you can find here.
Going to Starbucks as a Vegan
As of 2023, they have 5 plant-based food items on their menu, 2 savoury light bites and 3 sweet cakes/ desserts. All five items may not be available at every Starbucks but they should have a few of the plant-based items in each cafe.
If you have the option, you’re probably better off going to a bigger cafe for more plant-based food choices. The food items tend to be unique to each country so this would be a great excuse to try the plant-based options Japan has to offer.
Plant-based options at Starbucks have been on offer since the summer of 2022 in Japan. They like to change the plant-based menu from time to time, (which they did very recently, 1st June 2023) – let me show you what’s on offer.
There is also this great, fully vegan cake cafe opposite Shinjuku Park if you plan on visiting Tokyo!
Plant-based food in Starbucks
I’ll go into more detail with pictures below but, here is a snapshot of every plant-based food item you can get in Starbucks.
|Keema Curry Filone||¥510 (£2.86/ $3.61)|
|Spinach Corn & Soy Patty English Muffin||¥440 (£2.47/ $3.12)|
|Tiramisu||¥495 (£2.77/ $3.51)|
|Banana rice flour muffin||¥290 (£1.63/ $2.05)|
|Sugar doughnut||¥260 (£1.46/ $1.84)|
Keema Curry Filone – New Item!
If you’re eating it in, definitely have it warmed up! I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. They use mock mince meat in the curry which is topped with cheese that melts once warmed. The curry has such a great aroma and is also super delicious.
¥510 (£2.86/ $3.61)
Allergen: Wheat, almond, soybean, banana, apple
Spinach Corn & Soy Patty English Muffin
This English muffin has a bit of a chewiness to it, filled with a yummy soy patty, spinach and corn cream.
¥440 (£2.47/ $3.12)
Allergen: Wheat, soybean, apple
Tiramisu – New Item!
It’s light, creamy and delicious but I couldn’t taste any coffee in the sponge. I really enjoyed this but as this was my first ever tiramisu, I have nothing to compare it to – is this what a tiramisu should taste like? I liked it nonetheless and will be getting it again!
¥495 (£2.77/ $3.51)
Allergen: Wheat, almond, soybean
Banana rice flour muffin – New Item!
This banana muffin’s ok. Like the name, it’s a banana-flavoured muffin with banana chips on top – it’s nothing special and I found it a little dry. Because of the price point, I would probably get it again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.
However, it levelled up when I added the tiramisu on top!!
¥290 (£1.63/ $2.05)
Allergen: Soybean, banana
This is a light doughed sugar doughnut. It’s deliciously sweet and perfect paired with coffee. It gets eaten way too quickly and I will always order it if it’s on offer.
¥260 (£1.46/ $1.84)
Allergen: Wheat, soybean
What Plant-based milk do they have at Starbucks?
Starbucks Japan has three plant-based milks on offer:
- Oat milk
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
However, only two of those are actually vegan.
After someone reached out to customer services at Starbucks, they confirmed that the almond milk has pork-derived ingredients, so best to stay away from that one!
My usual go-to drink order usually is an iced or hot oat matcha latte but if I fancy a coffee I’ll go for an oat latte or a cappuccino. Is there something else you think I should try?
For more coffee options in Tokyo, check out this list of cafes with alternative milk options!
Ordering a drink at Starbucks Japan
Here in Japan, instead of telling the barista your name, they will hand you a receipt after you made your order and paid. You have to line up and listen out for your drink/s, and sometimes show them your receipt to double-check your order – so make sure you don’t throw it away!
When you order a drink that requires plant-based milk, along with your order receipt you will receive another small receipt with your chosen plant-based milk on it. You will have to hand this over to the barista in exchange for your drink.
You can see them making your drinks and also see the jugs and other drink-making equipment with signs on them such as “milk” or “non-milk” to avoid cross-contamination. This is so nice to see and gives you peace of mind and reassurance that you won’t accidentally be handed the wrong item.
Also, another thing to add! When you receive your drink, you’ll also have a cute little sticker with your chosen milk attached to your drink too which avoid any confusion!
Why come to Starbucks when you visit Japan?
Look I get it, you might be thinking, why come to a place that’s so readily available back home? I was exactly the same, I’ve always preferred going to smaller individually owned cafes and I can count on one hand the number of times I visited Starbucks in England.
So I wasn’t really bothered about going to any Starbucks when I moved to Japan. However, sometimes Starbucks may be your only decent option and you’ll be glad that you have that to fall back on.
If you go to a new town or city without doing much research, you know of at least one place you can grab a drink and a snack to keep you going!
In the past, I arrived at a new location early in the morning and have been very pleased that Starbucks was open. Or, I’ve been somewhere late at night waiting till I can board my next train, hungry and without any internet but luckily there was a Starbucks nearby that I could recharge both myself and my phone.
Starbucks in Japan are pretty insta-worthy
All the Starbucks may look the same where you are from but, Japan is home to some of the most unique and beautiful versions of this coffee shop in the world. There are a number of cool locations and buildings such as the one in Kawagoe with an edo-era aesthetic or a 100-year-old converted townhouse in Kyoto.
I have been lucky enough to visit both those locations and they are truly stunning – making it an attraction in itself. There’s something special about going to a modern cafe in an old building surrounded by traditional wooden architecture and a Japanese interior.
One of the most vegan-friendly chain cafes in Japan
They open early, close late, have multiple stores across Japan and have multiple drinks and food with plant–based options. Starbucks is actually one of three reliable chains in Japan with vegan options!
Although more plant-based and vegan items are slowly getting introduced around Japan, it’s not as widely available. So, Starbucks is a reassuring and reliable place to get vegan-friendly food and drinks when you’re out of options.
The drinks here are varied and their food is nice, (I particularly like their sweet selection paired with coffee). Although you won’t be getting a gourmet meal, it’s enough to fill a hole until you can get your next meal, especially when you’re in unfamiliar places – Starbucks has its place!