Remember Tommy Lee Jones from Men in Black and No Country? The man can act. In Japan, for whatever reason, Mr. Jones is the slightly cross looking face of Suntory Boss Coffee. Suntory, a major mega corporation in the brewing and beverage industry produces a line of ready-to-drink canned coffees that are sold in vending machines around Japan. Boss is one of many brands vying for the 100-200 yen that the cans typically sell for, and each company has their own flavors, designs, and occasionally, vending machines.
Because of the aforementioned Tommy Lee Jones and the awesome name, I chose Boss Coffee to be my coffee of choice as we travelled the islands. Wherever we travelled I purchased a can (or two.. ) in each city, always going for the flavors I hadn’t yet tried. The Boss brand website seems to show a 20 types available today. It turns out I tried 15 of them, and remembered to take pictures of 11, so a pretty good sample. Here’s the rundown! None of this is scientific in any way, no conditions were controlled for – just my impressions of the various tastes.
This is one of my favorites – I know it as the red blue and green can thanks to its bright primary colors. It’s a latte, and high in sugar, so basically it tastes like a coffee-ish milk chocolate drink. Very drinkable, not a lot of the bitter coffee taste to it. Would definitely drink again!
I found this one to be watery. My impression was that it was less sweet than the Melting Ice Latte, with slightly less milk in the mix. It went down ok but had a water and milk taste that threw me off a bit. Would drink again, but not as a first choice. Boss Melting
Cafe au Lait
Breaking with vending-machine only tradition, this one caught my eye as similar to my favorite milk and sugar concoction, only different. It was indeed. Even more milk and sugar in its profile. Almost too sweet for me, and definitely too sweet for a daily drink. Many of these coffees are fairly high in sugar so they count almost as a soda – this one definitely was. Would.. probably not drink again.
This one was interesting. It had a really great start and a supremely bitter and soapy finish. I didn’t see it in Suntory’s catalog so maybe it’s discontinued? I found it Sendai up north. Would get it again except for the memory of that after-taste. At this point in time I wasn’t super into the dark, bitter, coffee flavor of coffee so maybe now I’d like it better. Great start, bad finish, not really for me.
A big half-cup. One of my favorites and one that I sought out above others. Bitter, not particularly sweet or milky, not watery either. Very strong roasted coffee flavors without that harsh astringency that some of the other cans, like Roast Factory, had. High on caffeine too. I miss this one, would drink again.
I really wanted to like this one. It was a master’s brew after all. It went down well enough, but it’s petrol-like flavor which some people definitely go for in coffee was not my cup of tea. Would pass, but I really like the can.
The can was an amazing color. This coffee is definitely a strong, almost burnt roast. The taste was watery, I think coffee fans call it low in body. Not a repeat customer here, but I can recognize a good cup, even if it’s for someone else.
The mid-sugar, low milk variant of ice coffee by Boss. It had a sweet, full start with a clear, slightly bitter finish. I didn’t look out for this one again, but I wouldn’t turn down a can.
I honestly forgot to take notes for this one and have forgotten the details of its flavor. I know that it was not particularly offensive in taste, nor too watery or sweet. I did not get a second can of it because it’s limited to Kyushu. Would try again.
I had several of these while we were in Hiroshima. It was a great medium roast, fairly high in sugar though. Neither milky nor water, I really enjoyed it. Luckily it seems they’re available all around though I only found them in Hiroshima.
A fan favorite – no bitterness here. High on the sugar and milk tastes, this is a sweet coffee that I frequently looked for. It usually cost 130 yen, but was sometimes on discount in certain machines for 100. A great deal if you can find it for the standard price.
A confusingly similar name to the previous entry, this variant is very similar, but with a stronger, more roasted coffee taste. A good can of coffee but I only saw it once. Boss
The last of my regularly sought out cans. Bitter overtones, balanced milk and sugar, and a hint of burnt caramel flavor. Available everywhere and in a cheerfully colored can, what more can you ask for. Confusingly, this one also has monthly variants that are released in limited areas. I tried one and couldn’t really detect the difference, so maybe it’s just the can? Either way, would drink again in a heartbeat.
Of special mention, but without a picture : Boss Double Impact and its low sugar variant. They’re highly caffeinated and a great way to jumpstart a slow morning. I had two of these one morning and spent the rest of it bouncing around with mild tremors. Super fun, use with caution!