In Japan, convenience stores are called コンビニ、or conbini’s. And unlike convenience stores you find in the States – ie, dingy 7-11’s with a questionable selection of hot dogs on display or the off-name liquor stores you you might see at the corner of an intersection – these conbini’s are always impeccably clean, well-organized, and literally, convenient. They’re fully stocked with every kind of product you can think of, from perfectly hard-boiled eggs, pre-cooked edamame, and vacuum-sealed chicken breasts ready to be sliced up and tossed over a salad, to kitchen and cleaning supplies, to bathroom products and toiletries, you name it. There are even individually packaged white cotton t-shirts for the ever-sweaty salary man.
But, although I am a big fan of hard-boiled eggs that I didn’t have to cook myself, I’d have to say that my favorite thing about conbinis are the drinks.
True, drinks definitely don’t sound as fascinating as the packets of pre-cooked Thai curry in the ready-made-foods aisle, or the essential oils and incense sticks on display next to the ties, but the thing I love about conbini drinks is just how many options there are!
Walk into any store and you’ll find walls stocked with sodas, teas, juices, drinkable yogurts, even fresh-pressed juices. Every conbini usually has the same selection of brands, but I’ve stumbled upon a few that have limited edition drinks too, and one chain even has their own line of much cheaper, store-brand drinks.
By far the most extensive selection is the coffee (though tea comes in close second). There are about a thousand different types of coffee drinks – coffee mixed with half and half, coffee with milk, coffee with milk and sugar, coffee with milk and no sugar, and so on. And of course, there are tons of classic black options too. I can’t say that it compares to the freshly brewed stuff you get at sit-down cafe’s, but for 118 yen each, I’d say they taste pretty good.
And as if walls of canned coffee aren’t enough, there’s also a separate refrigerated section where you can find an even greater selection of lattes, along with lots of different flavored teas, milk-based drinks, and smoothies too.
Every time I stop by a conbini, I make an effort to buy a new drink each time. My goal is to try every single type of drink available! (Well, all except for the carton of straight wheat grass powder.) Considering just how many drinks there are, it looks like I have a long way to go.
Good thing I have all year.