Japan was first introduced to coffee in the early 17th century by the Dutch merchants trading at Dejima. At the time it was the only port opened to foreign trade. In 1888 the first kissaten (tea house that doubles as a coffee shop) opened in Tokyo and a small coffee industry followed. By the 1920’s coffee was slowly creeping into everyday life.
Although there seems to be a lack of information regarding the history of the nel drip, I believe that it showed up around the late 1800’s to early 1900’s when the first early adopters began to take an interest in coffee.
Kissaten pushed the development of Japanese coffee equipment as they wanted better methods for extraction. In 1925, Coffee Syphon Co. released the first syphon brewer in Japan.
Around the time Hario began producing glassware, the nel drip was the most pervasive brewing method in Japan. It requires both patience and practice in order to execute a well extracted cup.
At the end of World War II, Japan was quick to import Western culture. Coffee soon became an essential product much like tea due to the growing demand by the influx of American occupation forces. At one time it is said that kissaten served 90% of Japans imported coffee. Import bans lasted until 1950 leaving many kissaten to rely on the black market.
Ichiro Skeguchi of Café de Lambre has been using the nel drip since the day he first opened shop in 1948. He said that “no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t come close to the delicious taste of nel drip coffee.”