Monday, May 2, 2011

Free Breakfast with Coffee

Japan has been home for nearly two years. Though I am unable to claim familiarity with every custom, by now, there are scenarios where surprise is unexpected. For example, ordering a beverage at a coffee shop.

Last year I took my first trip to Nagoya, Japan's 4th largest city. Just before going, friends told me something pleasantly unusual about the area coffee shops; upon ordering a cup of java, breakfast was free.

Inconceivable–a free drink, with purchase of a meal, might be expected anywhere, but in Nagoya, the reverse occurs? On my first trip there, I saw signs advertising the free-breakfast-with-coffee phenomenon, but was unable to partake of it, due to time constraints.

Recently, I had occasion to go to Nagoya again. It sounds silly–and it was not at all the focus of my journey–but, I was looking forward to getting something for nothing in breakfast-form.

Finally, I had my chance. I went to Komeda's Coffee in Nagoya Station. Holy mackerel–the legends were true–and it was better than I ever imagined. The meal came free with the purchase of any beverage–a pleasant surprise to this coffee-hater. There was a wide array of choices available including teas, shakes and soups.

For my beverage, I ordered corn soup. I was delighted at the wonderful taste, especially as it initially looked lackluster. They also brought a hard-boiled egg, still in the shell, and a half piece of toast. In Japan, bread is cut quite thick. The portion may not sound generous, but it was equivalent to about 1 slice of bread in the US, making the meal perfectly sized for breakfast. It was delicious, and indeed, all for the ordinary price of a drink at a coffee shop.

WHY is there free breakfast with coffee? I wondered the same. Apparently, there was stiff competition between cafés. Komeda's Coffee, the very chain where I experienced bargain-lover's bliss, started offering free breakfast. Other shops followed suit.

I could not find out why it localized mostly in the Nagoya Metro area. (Although, there are Komeda's locations nationwide; you may be able to experience breakfast, the Nagoya way, in a prefecture near you). Free breakfast should catch on everywhere. Indeed, Japanese out-of-towners were in line with me, excited to try the famed special. For now, its geographic exclusivity remains a mystery. If you find yourself in Nagoya, wander into a coffee shop and see what surprise comes with your drink.