The growing buzz around craft cola’s ‘addictive’ blends, assorted spices

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Company owner Takahide Kobayashi stirs his cola syrup, which took him more than two years to develop into its current flavor.

Created using a blend of spices and original recipes, craft cola is experiencing a boom in popularity. Their unique aromas and refreshing sensations, said by some to be addictive, have been causing quite a stir.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The facade of Iyoshi Cola Sohonten Shimo-Ochiai store, which was converted from a Chinese medicine workshop run by Kobayashi’s grandfather, in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

The spike in interest was sparked by Iyoshi Cola, a business located in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, that is said to be a pioneer in craft cola’s creation.

On a weekend in mid-May, many customers could be seen lined up in front of the store before it opened for the day.

“The nostalgic and addictive taste cannot be found in colas sold in supermarkets,” said one customer from Tokyo’s Nakano Ward who sampled “The Dreamy Flavor,” one of the store’s regular flavors made with lemon and more than 10 varieties of spices such as cola nut and clove.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cola nuts directly imported from Ghana and other countries

The store’s 31-year-old founder and operator Takahide Kobayashi was originally an employee of a major advertising company who enjoyed making homemade cola on his days off as a hobby. “I enjoyed the pursuit of [finding] a satisfying flavor,” he recalled.

He became inspired to open a store of his own after sorting through the belongings of his grandfather, who ran a Chinese medicine workshop called Iyoshi Yakko. When making his cola, Kobayashi used the exquisite way of heating or treating medicinal herbs described in a memo of his grandfather’s that he found. The process soon enabled him to produce drinks with a similar fragrant flavor to the cola he serves today.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Iyoshi Cola is served in a plastic bag. The syrup and carbonated water must be mixed before drinking.

While working as a company employee, he began to sell his cola from a food truck in Tokyo on weekends. His cola soon gained quite a following on social media. About a year after the launch of his product, he began to sell his cola syrup wholesale nationwide.

In 2018, he quit his company job to focus on making cola. After renovating his grandfather’s Chinese medicine workshop, he opened his store last February. In April this year, he opened another branch in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward. Iyoshi Cola has grown into a company with about 20 employees.

Kobayashi’s next goal is to open a store in the United States, the home of cola.

“I want to become a cola dealer on par with Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, and spread the taste of Iyoshi around the world,” he said with a smile.