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21 Most Refreshing Japanese Drinks You Must Try!

The country which is nicknamed “the land of the rising sun” is well known for its culture.

One of them is quite popular in the culinary world. Yup, almost everyone knows Onigiri, Takoyaki, and even Sake and Yakult.

However, apart from that, there are many more Japanese drinks that you need to know.

What is that?

Let’s check the reviews below!

1. Sake

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Sake is a Japanese alcoholic drink made from fermented rice.

The fermentation process of Sake uses Koji mushrooms and is similar to brewing. Sake is made by converting the starch in rice to sugar which is then fermented into alcohol.

The origin of sake is unclear, one of the earliest references is in the Book of Wiu in the Records of the Three Kingdoms.

The text, which originated from China in the 3rd century, discusses Sake. Apart from that, Sake is also mentioned in the Kojiki script.

The Kojiki Manuscript is Japan’s first historical literature compiled in 712 AD. Sake was previously produced by the imperial government for a long time.

Then during the Meiji Restoration, Sake began to be allowed to be produced independently by individuals.

There are two variations of Sake that are commonly known, namely Futsu-shu or regular sake, and Tokutei meisho-shu or special sake.

Tokutei meisho-shu is a premium sake made from specially processed rice with an additional percentage of alcohol in the ingredients.

The taste of sake usually refers to the label on the bottle, a term that denotes the difference in taste, as Nihonshu-do tends to taste dry and sweet. Then San-do which tends to taste sour and Aminosan-do which shows a taste of acidity.

2. Matcha

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Matcha is the name of a traditional Japanese drink made from finely ground green tea leaves.

The tea leaves made for Matcha are also grown and specially processed. Camellia sinensis tea, the raw material for Matcha is able to produce more levels of theanine and caffeine.

The use of tea as a drink went through a special series of processes originating in China during the Tang Dynasty.

This method later became an important part of the Chan or Zen Buddhist ritual which was later brought to Japan by the monk Eisai in 1191.

Matcha is made from growing tea leaves that are kept out of direct sunlight. This slows down growth and stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels in the tea leaves, and making them darker and green.

The special preparation process of Matcha leaves also leads to the production of amino acids, particularly theanine. Before it is ready to be processed into Matcha, the harvested green tea leaves are slowly crushed or ground until they turn into a fine powder.

The taste of Matcha is dominated by its amino acid content, while the best quality of Matcha can be seen from its sweet and strong taste. Matcha is usually drunk in a ceremony called ceremonial grade. Matcha has a relaxing effect on the body.

3. Amazake

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Amazake is a traditional Japanese sweet drink that is low in alcohol and made from fermented rice.

The Amazake fermentation process uses Koji or Aspergillus oryzae mushrooms which are also used as fermentation materials in making miso, soy sauce, and also sake.

This traditional drink made during the Kofun Period in Japan is mentioned in the Nihon Shoki.

There are several recipes for making amazake that has been used for generations for hundreds of years. The most popular recipe is using Koji mushrooms.

Koji mushrooms are added to cooled rice to make carbohydrates break down into natural sugars. Another popular recipe is to mix water and cassava sake or dregs in a sake brewery and then add sugar to it.

Amazake can be used as a dessert, snack, natural sweetener, smoothie, and many more.

Amazake can also be made into another drink, such as by mixing water, and adding ginger, and then heating it. These drinks are usually served at shops or during festivals.

Amazake is believed to have high nutritional content, such as vitamins B1, B2, B6, folic acid, fiber, glutamine, and so on.

Amazake is also often considered as a hangover cure in Japan. Amazake is also sold in instant packs at grocery stores.

4. Mugicha

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Mugicha or barley tea is a roasted grain drink made from barley by the infusion method.

Mugicha is popular in East Asia, such as China, Korea, Taiwan, and including Japan. Mugicha has a delicious taste and also has a slightly bitter taste.

Barley is a cereal grain that comes from the grass family plant. Barley is commonly grown in temperate regions, such as Japan and East Asia. Barley has indeed been cultivated for a long time and has even existed since about 10,000 years ago.

Traditionally, Mugicha is made by boiling unpeeled roasted barley seeds in water. Another method is to brew roasted barley and ground barley in hot water.

However, since the early 1980s, tea bags filled with powdered barley have been more popular in Japan.

Mugicha is usually served cold in Japan and one of a popular drink during the summer. Mugicha in Japan is available in tea bags or PET bottles and sold in supermarkets, convenience stores, or vending machines.

Research shows that Mugicha or roasted barley has antibacterial antioxidants and can improve blood smoothness. Especially because Mugicha is free from caffeine levels, so it can be consumed more and healthier.

5. Genmaicha

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Genmaicha is green tea made from Japanese brown rice.

Sometimes in the common local language, it is also called popcorn tea or as people’s tea. Although currently, almost all levels of Japanese society consume Genmaicha.

The name popcorn tea is given because the rice grains often appear to resemble popcorn during baking.

Meanwhile, the name people’s tea was given because the addition of rice to the tea can reduce the cost of buying tea to be affordable for the poor.

Genmaicha is made from a mixture of green tea and brown rice. The sugar and starch in rice can cause the tea to feel warm, full, and spicy. That’s why Genmaicha is also often drunk by fasting people to stay full for a long time.

Tea soaked in Genmaicha usually has a light yellow color; the taste tends to be light and feels good in the stomach. The combination of the fresh taste of the tea with the aroma of roasted rice makes Genmaicha’s taste so distinctive.

Apart from that, Genmaicha is also often sold with Matcha or powdered green tea added to it. This product is commonly referred to as matcha-iri genmaicha, it tastes similar to regular Genmaicha, but it’s stronger and has a green color.

6. Aojiru

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This traditional Japanese drink made from vegetables is called Aojiru.

Usually made from kale or young barley grass. Aojiru in English is also known as green juice, although in modern Japanese ao itself means blue.

Aojiru was developed in October 1943 by Dr. Niro Endo, an army doctor. He experimented with juicing extracts from the leaves of various discarded vegetables in an attempt to supplement his meager nutritional needs during World War II.

Then Aojiru started to gain popularity since 1983 by Q’SAI who started marketing it in the form of food supplement powder. Sales increased even further after 2000 when cosmetics company FANCL started selling Aojiru en masse.

Aojiru’s taste is actually notoriously bad and tends to be bitter. In fact, because of that taste, many Japanese TV game shows use Aojiru as a punishment. However, now the Aojiru formulation is only made to minimize the original bitterness.

Regardless of the taste, Aojiru is a drink that is rich in certain vitamins and minerals. Dr. Niro Endo concluded that kale is the best raw material for Aojiru, after successfully curing his son of pneumonia and his wife from nephritis.

7. Shochu

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Shochu is a Japanese distilled beverage with an alcohol content of less than 45%.

Shochu is usually made from distilled rice or kome, barley or mugi, sweet potato or satsuma-imo, brown sugar or kokuto, and other ingredients such as potatoes and even carrots.

Shochu’s origins are not clear, but it was originally referred to as araki. Araki is a general term in Japan that refers to alcoholic drinks from the Middle East or Araq in Arabic. Shochu is believed to have originated in Persia which spread to Okinawa.

Around the 16th century, the Shochu refining technique also arrived in Kagoshima, ​​Japan. This distilled drink is better known as Awamori in the Okinawa area. Shochu is divided into old-style Shochu and a new style that uses a distillation machine.

The word Shochu is a Japanese translation of shaojiu which means burning liquor.

Shochu is different from sake, it has a much less fruity taste and depends more on the brewing process. The taste tends to be spicy according to the Japanese people who consume it.

Most types of Shochu are made by a single distillery known as moromitori shochu. There is also kasutori shochu, which is made by filtering the fermented Sake dregs. In addition there are also types of mixed Shochu, hashira shochu, and others.

8. Yakult

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Who doesn’t know Yakult?

This sweet probiotic milk drink fermented with lactic acid bacteria is an original Japanese product.

Bacteria with the Lactobacillus paracasei strain used in Yakult were discovered by a Japanese scientist named Minoru Shirota.

Yakult was produced and commercialized by the Yakult Honshu company founded by Minoru Shirota in the 1930s.

In the beginning, Yakult was sold door to door by a Yakuruto redi meaning Yakult woman/lady or named Yakuruto obasan which meant Yakult auntie.

Yakult began to be sold abroad in 1964, with Taiwan as its first market. In April 2000, Yakult Honshu shares were bought by Danone company. However, since February 2018, Danone has reduced its ownership from 21% to 7%.

The raw materials for making Yakult are water, skimmed milk, glucose-fructose syrup, sucrose, and Lactobacillus paracasei bacteria. The fermentation process at Yakult is carried out by inoculation and incubation with bacteria for 6 – 7 days at a temperature of 37 to 38 ° C.

Research carried out by a panel appointed by the Netherlands Nutrition Center in 2006 found evidence that drinking one bottle of Yakult per day can help improve bowel movements and maintain health in the intestines.

9. Ramune

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Ramune is a Japanese carbonated soft drink. Its name comes from Japanese which borrows from the English word, lemonade.

Ramune was introduced by a Scottish pharmacist named Alexander Cameron Sim in 1884 in Kobe.

The distinctive feature of Ramune lies in the unique bottle design. The design of the Ramune bottle is called the Codd-neck bottle after its inventor Hiram Codd. The bottle is made of glass and covered with marble. To open it, a special plastic tool is provided.

Opening the Codd-neck bottle is by pushing the marble inward. Therefore, Ramune is also sometimes referred to as soda marble outside of Japan. Although Codd-neck bottles used to be used in soda, they are now relatively rare.

Only Ramune and the Banta brand are still using Codd-neck bottles. For people who are trying Ramune for the first time, they will sometimes experience difficulties. Now Ramune is also available in PET plastic bottles and cans.

As the name of this drink, the original Ramune flavor is lemon-lime, but there are at least 55 other flavors of Ramune, such as Candy, Wasabi, Lychee, and others. Ramune is a modern symbol of summer in Japan and is widely consumed during summer festivals.

10. Coca-cola Clear

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Coca-Cola is one of the most famous soft drink brands in the world.

One of the unique Coca-Cola product variants is Coca-Cola Clear. As the name, this Coca-Cola is not dark and without caramel ingredients as usual.

Then what is the relationship between Coca-Cola Clear and Japan?

Coca-Cola Clear was officially released for the first time in Japan which was previously developed by the Coca-Cola Asia Pacific company. The product was launched in stores on 11 June 2018.

Although it has a clear color, Coca-Cola Clear does not taste completely tasteless. Because the latest version of Coca-Cola still gives a distinctive Coca-Cola taste. The product has gone through a series of trials of up to 50 recipes until it was finally launched.

One of the secrets lies in the lemon juice which is used to replace caramel. It has proven similar in taste to Cola and is also calorie-free.

However, it is slightly more acidic than the original. Another flavor variation of Coca-Cola Clear is lime which was released in June 2019.

Unlike regular Coca-Cola Clear, the lime variant is sweetened with sucralose and acesulfame potassium, not corn syrup and high fructose. Coca-Cola Clear is produced and sold in Japan and also sold in other countries through import shops.

11. Awamori

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Awamori is a typical alcoholic drink from Okinawa, Japan.

Awamori is made from indica rice, which has a long-grain shape, mostly imported from Thailand. Awamori is not made like Sake but it is made by distillation like Shochu.

Awamori history is closely related to trading in the Okinawa area and originates from the Thai drink or the Ayutthaya kingdom named Lao Khao.

During the 15th to 19th centuries, Awamori was sent to Japan as a form of respect for the East Asian people.

Although both originate from the distillation or refining process, Awamori is different from Japanese Shochu in several ways. Awamori is made from Thai-style long-grained indica rice, while Shochu is made from short-grained Japonica rice.

In addition, Awamori is made in one fermentation process, whereas Shochu usually uses two ferments. Awamori exclusively uses the Okinawan black koji mushroom or Aspergillus awamori and not the Aspergillus kawachii koji mushroom on Shochu.

Awamori usually contains 30-43% alcohol although there are some that contain 60% alcohol, especially hanazake. Awamori is stored in traditional clay pots to enhance their flavor and tenderness, and it’s usually served cold.

12. Japanese Whiskey

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Japanese Whiskey is a type of beverage that is developed and produced in Japan.

The manufacture of the drink began around 1870. In general, Japanese Whiskey is more similar to Scottish whiskey than any other whiskey.

Japanese Whiskey cannot be separated from two influential figures in its history, namely Shinjiro Torii and Masataka Taketsuru. Torii decided to make his own whiskey and made the first whiskey distillery in Yamazaki, a suburb of Kyoto.

Then Torii hired Masataka Taketsuru as the executive of the refinery. This is because Taketsuru has studied the art of refining in Scotland. But in 1934 Taketsuru decided to set up his own distillery in Hokkaido.

The most famous Japanese Whiskey company was founded by these two people, namely Suntory which was founded by Torii and Taketsuru who founded Nikka. Although there are also several producers and nine other active refineries.

Japanese Whiskey which is blended and single malt style is similar to Scotch whiskey. The difference lies in the vertically integrated production system.

Japanese Whiskey is usually consumed like Scotch whiskey or like Shochu according to taste.

13. Umeshu

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Umeshu is a Japanese liquor that is made from steeping the ume fruit or Japanese plums while they are still raw and green in a mixture of Shochu liqueur and sugar.

Umeshu has a sweet, sour taste and contains about 10-15% alcohol.

Beside using real ume fruit, Umeshu can also be made using additive flavorings and fragrances to make the taste close to the ume fruit.

Umeshu made from the original, namely the original ume fruit, sugar, and alcohol, will usually be labeled as Honkaku Umeshu.

Umeshu is usually served by several Japanese restaurants in various styles. Like Umeshu on the Rocks or umeshu rokku, Umeshu Sour or umeshu sawa, Umeshu Tonic with the addition of ⅔ tonic water, and Umeshu Soda plus yang carbonated water.

Apart from this style of serving, sometimes Umeshu is also mixed with green tea or warm water. Umeshu is often served at varying temperatures depending on the conditions, it can be served cold or with ice, room temperature, or served hot in winter.

Some of the famous Umeshu brands are like Choya, Takara Shuzo, and Matsuyuki. Japanese people also often make their own Umeshu at home. The trick is to make a mixture of ume fruit, sugar, and Shochu and store it for about six months.

14. Canned Coffee

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Canned Coffee is a drink that can be found everywhere in Japan.

A large number of companies compete competitively in the sale of the Canned Coffee. Canned Coffee can be found in supermarkets, convenience stores, or vending machines.

Canned coffee is a beverage innovation from Japan. Even the term kan kōhī is a wasei-eigo which in English is can coffee. Canned Coffee was first pioneered in 1969 by UCC Ueshima Coffee Co. in Shimane prefecture.

Canned Coffee has grown in popularity since 1973 when the Pokka Coffee company started making vending machines for hot and cold drinks. Then in 1983 the producer of Canned Coffee reached its peak production, reaching around 100 million cases.

There are many types of Canned Coffee in Japan, most of which are typical products of a company. Generally, it’s a type of coffee milk, which has a sweet taste. In addition there are also low-sugar black coffee, unsweetened milk coffee, flavored coffee, and also types of iced coffee.

One of the interesting things about Canned Coffee in Japan is that there are collectors of coffee cans.

If in America there are coffee can collectors organizations such as the Brewery Collectibles Club of America, while in Japan coffee cans are only collected individually.

15. Koso

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Koso or known in Japan as kōso dorinku is a traditional Japanese fermented drink made from raw materials such as vegetables and fruits.

Koso itself means enzyme in Japanese, namely bacteria or microorganisms for fermentation.

Koso has been produced and sold in Japan since about 100 years ago. Originally Koso was used as a supplement for workers and for people who were malnourished. Apart from being a nutritional support, Koso is also good for the digestive system.

The drink is said good for digestion basically for several main reasons. The first is that the nutrient ingredients are easily absorbed during the fermentation process. Then the process of forming nutrients from fermentation is good for intestinal health.

Besides it’s good for digestion, recent research has also revealed that Koso works optimally in overcoming hypercholesterolemia. Moreover, the fermentation process in Koso helps the body digest the nutritional components contained in vegetables and fruit.

To make Koso, generally raw materials such as vegetables and fruit are mixed with sugar and then fermented for several weeks or years by enzymes. In general, making Koso is similar to Kombucha, but the nutritional content and taste are different.

16. Sakurayu

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Sakurayu or Sakura-cha literally means cherry blossom tea.

The name refers to a type of drink made by brewing pickled cherry blossoms and boiled water using the infusion method. Sakurayu is a kind of herbal tea in East Asian culture.

To make Sakurayu, some dried cherry blossoms are put in a cup of hot water. After that, then the flower petals will open and float. Sakurayu is then left to stand for a while, until it reaches the desired intensity.

Sakurayu has a mild taste and tends to be salty. This is because the cherry blossoms are pickled first by pickling them in plum vinegar and salt. After that, it is dried and stored specifically.

In Japanese tradition, Sakurayu herbal tea has a quite special position.

Refers to the Japanese expression “ocha wo nigosu” which means to make tea cloudy. The term is a denotation that describes an expression of evasiveness or non-commitment.

That is why green tea is never served at weddings in Japanese culture, because it has a somewhat negative meaning. But it is different with Sakurayu, because the cherry blossom herbal tea is actually a symbol of the beginning.

17. Kombucha

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Kombucha, also known as tea mushrooms and Manchurian mushrooms, is a fermented, bubbly, sweetened black tea or green tea drink.

A variety of Kombucha is usually added with juice, spices, or fruit to enhance its taste.

The history of Kombucha probably originated in the Manchuria region, when traced from its culture. While there is actually no definite origin for Kombucha, some reports note that Kombucha has been existed since 200 or 2,000 years ago.

Kombucha is predicted to be consumed in Russia since 1900 and began to spread to Europe.

Then at the beginning of the 21st century, the consumption of Kombucha began to increase, especially in the United States. Kombucha is a great alternative to beer and liqueur in pubs.

Kombucha in Japanese originally refers to tea made with powdered kombu or seaweed. The term is different from fermented tea which is now associated with Kombucha because the fermented tea in Japanese is kōcha kinoko.

Despite these mistakes, Kombucha or fermented tea is now being sold and consumed all over the world. Commercial packaging became available in the 1990s. Kombucha has a fairly strong sour taste and is well-loved for its health claims.

18. Soy Milk

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Soy Milk is a plant-based drink that is produced by soaking and grinding soybeans, boiling them, then filtering them and separating them from the pulp.

Soy Milk was originally a by-product of tofu making which originated in East Asia.

Soybean originates from northeastern China and has been domesticated since the 11th century BC. The origins of Soy Milk can be traced to the 3rd century BC as soybean porridge, 4th century BC as soy wine and in 1365 as tofu stock or doujiang.

Soy Milk began to be sold like soft drinks in Japan around the 1950s, after previously being plagued by the Second World War. Soy Milk is also used in Japanese cooking such as for making yuba and occasionally as a base for nabe.

The taste of Soy Milk varies according to the soybean cultivation used during the production process. Soy Milk, which is popular with consumers, usually has a thick, smooth texture, has a sweet aroma like vanilla, and tends to be sweet.

As an alternative milk drink, Soy Milk is suitable for drinking for vegetarians or individuals who are lactose intolerant. In addition, most people can drink Soy Milk because the nutritional content of Soy Milk can also be said to be significant.

19. Happoshu

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Happoshu or low malt beer is a term in Japan that usually refers to a beer-like drink with a malt content of less than 67%.

Happoshu is well-known among consumers for having a lower tax than drinks in the beer category.

Happoshu does originate from the Japanese alcohol tax system where it divides malt drinks into four categories based on the malt content.

An alcoholic drink will be categorized as beer when the weight of the malt extract exceeds 67% of the fermentation material.

In 1994, Hop’s Draft was introduced by the alcoholic beverage manufacturer Suntory which contains 65% malt. Since then the market has given rise to alternative products such as Happoshu. Happoshu’s popularity has led to a reduction in alcohol tax revenue.

Finally, in 1966 the Japanese government raised the state tax on low malt beer. So that brewers have responded by reducing the malt content in their products. So nowadays, Happoshu usually contains less than 25% malt.

There are various brands of Happoshu that are well known in Japan. The taste also varies depending on the raw materials used. Some Happoshu made from barley, wheat, pea protein, soy protein, and also low-carb variants.

20. Sencha

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Sencha is a type of ryokucha or green tea made by infusing whole processed tea leaves in hot water.

Sencha is the most popular of about 80% of the teas produced in Japan. The taste depends on the season and where to produce it.

The tea picking process in Japan usually starts in the south, gradually moving northward in line with the spring. The usual Sencha planting season is April – May, especially on the 88th day after Setsubun on February 4th.

Ideally, Sencha drinks are greenish-gold, besides that the temperature of the water can also affect the taste and attractiveness of Sencha. You could say that using medium temperature water will make it softer, while hot water will be more astringent.

The type of Sencha that is grown in the shade is called Kabusecha. Generally, Kabusecha is produced with the aim of increasing amino acids such as theanine which affects its taste. Kabusecha is a type of Sencha which has a softer taste.

The best quality and famously delicious Sencha is Shincha or new tea. Shincha is basically tea that is picked in the first month of the harvest of the year. So that Shincha is only available for a limited time, around April to May.

21. Tamaryokucha

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image source: Japanese Tea Sommelier

Tamaryokucha which means circular tea or also known as guricha or curly tea based on its shape.

Tamaryokucha is a green tea that has a pungent, berry-like taste, with a residual almond-like taste and aromas similar to citrus, grass, and berries.

The name Tamaryokucha which means circular tea actually refers to the process of rolling the tea leaves during their manufacture. While guricha is derived from the term classical Japanese decorative pattern, which refers to the curly appearance of Tamaryokucha.

Tamaryokucha is widely produced in the Kyushu area, Japan. This tea is usually served by steaming because it is believed to be able to maintain the content of vitamins and antioxidants. Before steaming, the leaves are rolled and not crushed like in Sencha tea.

After that, steep the tea at a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius for about 2 minutes, or if at a temperature of 80 degrees Celsius for about 1 minute.

Tamaryokucha has a golden yellow color and contains normal caffeine. Therefore, you can drink Tamaryokucha throughout the day.

So, those are some Japanese drinks that are quite popular. There are many interesting, right?

Even some of them may be familiar, like Ocha or Yakult which are widely available in the world.

So, are you interested in trying one by one?

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