Iced Coffee Review Part 2 - Japan vs Korea

Just over a month ago, I was crazy enough to sit down and drink 16 iced coffees in one sitting (review here).  I knew that was not a complete test, it was a spur of the moment thing, therefore many brands were missing.  However that review made me realise the difference between Australian iced coffees and overseas iced coffees.  Majority of Australian iced coffees use real milk, making a very creamy and rich body with a hint of coffee taste, compared to overseas coffees using milk powder, stronger coffee taste and much more watery body.

With that in mind, I wanted to review the overseas iced coffees available in Australia to find out which would come out on top under the categories for taste, sugar strength and coffee strength.

In Japan, coffee vending machines are abundant, and the different brands and flavours that are available are insane.  This is pretty much the same for Korea, so what better 2 countries to battle it out for my iced coffee review part 2?

Japan vs Korea!

Once again, these were the only ones I could find from the Korean and Japanese groceries in Adelaide, so I know this is not the complete list.  Part 3 might be a China vs ???
 #IcedCoffeeWars #IcedCofeeReview Part 2
The line up - Japan vs Korea
Kirin Fire, Boss Rainbow blend, and Suntory EspressSoda
Kirin Fire
Strong coffee strength, sweet and a very good overall taste that made me finish this can pretty quickly.  This pretty much became the benchmark for this review as it was just overall very good.  Nothing to complain about.  Also a very nice looking, textured can.   

Overall taste - 8
Coffee strength - 4.5
Sugar content/sweetness - 3.5
Final Score - 16/20

Boss Rainbow Mountain Blend
Definitely a different coffee taste to everything else.  Not that it was bad, but different.  Stands toe to toe with the Kirin Fire as being a very good overall coffee, but I prefer the taste of the Kirin better.  

Overall taste - 7
Coffee strength - 4.5
Sugar content/sweetness - 3.5
Final Score - 15/20

Suntory EspressSoda
This bottle messed with my mind.  I had no idea what to expect and even after the first sip, my mind was just confused.  One side of my mind thought I was drinking coffee, while the other half thought I was drinking a can of coke or another fizzy soft drink.  It took my taste buds roughly about 2-3 seconds to understand what  I had consumed.  The coffee strength was very weak, and the overall combined taste was very weird.  I'm torn between 2 sides, a coffee drink, I'd give it 10, but as a fizzy drink, maybe a 13.5.  

Overall taste - 5 or 8.5
Coffee strength - 2
Sugar content/sweetness - 3
Final Score - 10 or 13.5/20

Maxwell House Original, Maxwell House Bluet Mild

Maxwell House Original
Chocolate? That was my first impressions of this drink after the first sip.  I felt I tasted a bit of chocolate combined with coffee, but looking at the ingredients, it was not listed.  This was a very sweet drink, coffee strength was very weak.  

Overall taste - 8
Coffee strength - 2.5
Sugar content/sweetness - 4
Final Score - 14.5/20

Maxwell House Bluet Mild
VERY sweet.  Felt like I was drinking coffee with condensed milk.  Similar to the Maxwell House Original above, the coffee strength was very weak.  Taste wise, it was very well blended together, but just too sweet for my liking.

Overall taste - 7.5
Coffee strength - 2.5
Sugar content/sweetness - 4.5
Final Score - 14.5/20

French Cafe Black, French Cafe Sweet, and Hollys Coffee Americano

French Cafe Black
WTF was my first reaction after my first sip.  Looked at the ingredients and noticed no milk.  So basically this brand is using coffee only, no milk or milk powder.  So a very different approach to the Australian iced coffees.

Imagine you make some percolated coffee in the morning, add some sugar, let it cool down in the fridge, add some water to weaken it and drink it.  This is what it tasted like.  No idea who would drink this?  I added some milk into the left overs, and magically transformed it into Aussie iced coffee!

Overall taste - 4
Coffee strength - 2
Sugar content/sweetness - 2
Final Score - 8/20

French Cafe Sweet
Same as above where no milk/milk powder is added, but with a stronger coffee taste and a tad bit sweeter.  I added milk again at the very end and it actually tasted ok.  

Overall taste - 5
Coffee strength - 3
Sugar content/sweetness - 2
Final Score - 10/20

Hollys Coffee Americano
This can had no translation in the ingredients, but looking at the can, I could see it was advertised as 92 degree drip coffee.....  I guessed that it was similar to the above 2 coffees where no milk/milk powder is added.

I had my first sip, and bang!  Coffee strength was quite strong, with absolutely no sugar?  Without the translation, I couldn't tell.  It was basically chilled percolated coffee....  My mind was mixed again, why would anyone want to buy cold percolated coffee, hence I gave it 2 marks.

Overall taste - 4 or 8
Coffee strength - 4
Sugar content/sweetness - 1
Final Score - 9 or 13/20

So.... in summary.
All I can say is that this review is a totally separate review from part 1.  As stated above, Aussie iced coffee uses milk whereas Japanese and Korean iced coffees either use no milk or milk powder, therefore there is no way I can compare the 2 different types.

Commenting only on the ones I tried, Japanese and Korean iced coffees are quite different in taste.  Looking at the Kirin Fire and Boss coffees compared to the Korean's Maxwell House, it appears the Japanese brands focus on coffee strength rather than overall sweetness taste of the Koreans.  The Korean's Maxwell House coffees were very easy to drink, weaker coffee strength which would possibly make non-coffee drinkers enjoy it more.  The Boss Rainbow Mountain blend uses a strong tasting coffee blend to enhance the taste, making it very different to all other coffees I've tried - just #likeaboss.  

For those who enjoy cold coffees without milk, feel free to try the French Cafe choices or Hollys Cafe.  Definitely not something I'd try again though.

So, what is my choice after drinking 8 random imported iced coffees from Japan and Korean?  Kirin Fire - stands out from the crowd as the best tasting coffee, perfect sweetness and overall taste.

Stay tuned - I'm heading back to Japan for a month soon, so there may possibly be a Japan Iced Coffee rumble!

Blogged by Hayes

Group hug!


  1. You say "heading back to Japan" - so, you have already been? Didn't you notice that most vending machines over there have heaters built in? The drink buttons have a red or blue spot to indicate hot or cold.
    These drinks are not neccessarily "iced coffee", they're just coffee!

    1. Hi Harun yes, I just came back from a 4 week visit to Japan. I go there regularly to visit family and friends, so I thought I'd make the most of my visit and test out as many iced coffees as I can. I tried over 40 iced coffees. I'm hoping I can put up all the pics of them soon... most of them are on instagram, I just uploaded a few today.

      yes, I'm familiar with the heated coffees and I didn't drink many of those. I just don't like the taste of them much.

  2. Dont understand why they call it French cafe in Asia??? You cant find ice coffee in France. I have to find a swiss or Belgium brand which are now doubled in price due to the swiss franc re-valued. So now only starbucks available but the additives in them is pretty bad. Maybe will have to start making it myself...


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