Japan is a place where innovation is abundant – even in the food. Japanese food and drink leads to a world of possibility. Today, the Japanese Beauty Experts are going to open that world for you, as we chronicle 20 Japanese drinks you’ll love. We’re talking healthy, sweet, savory and 'sweat' – so definitely something for everyone. Here’s to fantasising about bypassing the line to our grande lattes and tossing back a nice warm coffee-straight from a vending machine!
1. Aojiru – Think of Aojiru as like, the Japanese version of Pressed Juicery. Except you wouldn’t want to sip this kale and barley based juice post SoulCycle, it’s more of a cure-you-from-pneumonia kind of juice. Literally! Aojiru’s inventor Dr. Niro Endo attributed Aojiru to healing his son as well as his wife from what would have been fatal ailments in their time of the late 1940’s. Whether you buy it or not, with the estimated market being over £500 million, there’s got to be something to the bitter green stuff. We’ll try anything to get our vitamins in. Bottoms up!
2. Sake – Ahh, sake. We’re sure you’ve had this one before. Or at least heard the fun table order it the last time you went out for sushi. We say fun table because sake is actually 18-20% alcohol, as opposed to the 9-15% of most wines. This rice wine is made by fermenting rice in a brewing process that transforms starch into sugar, and then into alcohol. There are a several kinds of sake, with the everyday table wine types being referred to Futsū-shu, and Tokutei meishō-shu referring to the specialty sake – the good stuff.
3. Yakult – Yakult is another mainstream drink that many in the western world might have heard of before. But did you know the probiotic drink was Japanese through and through? It’s made by fermenting skimmed milk with a unique strain of a bacteria Lactobacillus casei Shirota. The Shirota name is derived from Yakult’s creator, Minoru Shirota who first invented the product in 1930. No matter where Yakult is sold, it is still made with that Japanese sourced bacteria. That’s almost 50 years of happy stomachs!
4. Curry Soda – A Popsugar Poll resulted in 49% of readers being open to trying this fizzy curry drink. Meanwhile, 37% of readers were having none of it, voting for ‘curry soda-no thanks!’. We warned you, some of these beverages can seem a bit unorthodox! Curry soda isn’t a widely popular sensation in Japan, nonetheless it exists! The brand behind the wacky flavour is Tombow, who add their own porky spin on the flavour of curry that is done in many sodas across the country. We’re just wondering what you drink it with. Rice, maybe? More curry? This one probably won’t end up in the refrigerated section anytime soon.
5. Bikkle – Bikkle is a yogurt-based drink you can get in a vending machine. It’s a milky, off-white soft drink that replicates the taste of an orange creamcicle. It’s a huge hit in Japan as one of beverage company Suntory’s many products. Some have compared the drink’s sweetness to that of cake batter. Cake, popsicles, so far we’re into it! Would you try a Bikkle?
6. Mugicha (Roasted Barley Tea) – This is huge in all of Asia, but even more so in Japan. Mugicha is the Japanese term for the barley tea. You can also find this drink premade in one of the over 5.5 million vending machines in Japan. Or you can make it at home by roasting barley seeds or even easier– buying a tea bag! This tea is so good for you it might as well make you fly, too. It is linked to the prevention and reduction of tooth decay and cardiovascular disease. Drink up!
7. Canned Coffee – This one’s a biggie! Almost 50 years since its inception, canned coffee has become a staple in every store in Japan. There are hundreds of variations of this on-the-go drink, and several brands have created their own since Japanese company UCC first developed the product in the late 60s. Now, we may have canned Starbucks and glass bottles we can take with us in the US, but they’re not warmed! Japanese vending machines carry warm and cold drinks alike, and many canned coffees are kept toasty for that morning commute. Oishii!
8. Pocari Sweat – Yes, we know… the name is off-putting! But trust us, there’s no sweat in this drink. However, you should drink it when you’re going to sweat! This drink is supposed to restore the electrolytes and water lost when you sweat, as well as providing a refreshing grapefruit aftertaste. Japan is serious about their Pocari, they even sent a can up to the moon for a 2016 marketing campaign!
9. Matcha Latte – Matcha is a special form of green tea that is grown into a fine powder. It has Chinese and Japanese origins, but can now be found pretty much anywhere. Matcha has an astringent yet sweet taste, and makes traditional full-bodied Japanese green tea when mixed into hot water. Now, Matcha can be used pretty much anywhere to add a robust green tea flavour, but a Matcha latte is always a hit!
10. Hoppy – Hoppy is a super interesting drink. It’s basically non-alcoholic beer. Legally. Technically, however, the drink contains 0.8% alcohol. It is brewed with no purine bases, despite its beer-like flavour, and is normally used to mix with Shochu a Japanese distilled drink with an alcohol level in between sake and vodka. This mix is super popular in Japanese pubs and bars, after recently experiencing a retro revival.
11. Amazake – Amazake is a drink you would have in a temple or as a tourist in the cold winter. It’s a warm and comforting low alcoholic drink, made from rice milk. Think warm milk, Japan style!
12. Soba-cha – Soba-cha is another tea with an acquired taste on the list. It has a bold and nutty flavour that is not subtle. However, it’s said to have a lot of health benefits as well, anywhere from heart health to improved immune system.
13. Moringa Pancake Drink – This drink is a rarity: if you Google it, the first results are sure to be forums in which individuals are asking where they can get their hands on it. Those who have tried it have claimed it is exactly what you think it is: maple, batter, butter, and all!
14. Pepsi Special – Now, Japan has a ton of outlandish Pepsi flavours (strawberry milk!) that didn’t make this list, but we had to put this one in. It’s a true showcase for Japanese innovation. It’s a soda that helps you lose weight! The controversial drink is said to contain dextrin, an ingredient that stunts your absorption of fat! Seems a little counter-intuitive, no? We’d probably still give it a go.
15. Sakura Tea – Sakura-cha or Sakura tea is a beautiful drink made from pickled cherry blossoms. The petals begin to wither away into the steaming warm water, and a rosy gift is what is left behind. The tea is slightly salty and herby, as the blossoms are salted and picked before the tea is steeped. Beautiful!
16. Ofukucha – This tea is very special and served on New Year’s. It is supposed to bring good luck and health. We’re going to want a couple gallons of this to start of 2017!
17. DyDo Zeikatu Melon Milk – A mellow and milky drink, many enjoy the Zeikatu Melon Milk regularly because of its subtle and subdued melon taste. As opposed to our next melon drink, the DyDo drink is much more refined.
18. Melon Soda – Another melon drink! While this drink is famously noted for its vibrant green color and vivacious bubbles, many have claimed it doesn’t taste too much like melon! It’s a super popular drink amongst the kiddos, and can be served as a float with a scoop of classic vanilla ice cream! We’ll take two.
19. Genmaicha – Colloquially known as 'popcorn tea,' Genmaicha combines green tea and roasted brown rice, a few grains of which pop during the roasting process giving them a popcorn look. The tea was originally drunk by poor Japanese who used the rice as a filler, but today it’s enjoyed by everyone!
20. COQ10 Drink – Imagine our excitement when we discovered the Coenzyme Q10 drink! This one rounds out the list. Japanese company Rikiso makes these little drinks containing the coenzyme that encourages heart health, serves as an anti-migraine agent, and of course, benefits the skin for a more youthful look!