Time to read: 7-8 minutes
Naturally, Japan is a nation known for its cuisine. But do you know that there are also a bunch of refreshing non-alcoholic Japanese drinks that are loved by the locals?
Japanese cuisine is highly regarded for its complexity, flavor, and finesse throughout the world. You will undoubtedly get a positive answer when you inquire about sushi or ramen with anyone from New York to Hong Kong! However, Japanese drinks continue to be rather mysterious to many first-time visitors to the nation.
If you believe that the only two drinks available in Japan are sake and matcha green tea, then we have the list for you! Japan offers every flavor you can think of—sweet, sour, acidic, salty, and more. Do you appreciate a wonderful cup of sakura tea to wash down your midday snack? Or do you want to try unique flavors you can only find in Japan?
Today, we’ll examine some of the most well-known and distinctive Japanese non-alcoholic beverages, which go excellently with any meal.
Matcha (Green Tea)
Green tea powder, known as matcha, is commonly stirred into a foamy brew with a perfectly balanced bitter and sweet flavor. Even though matcha tea is preferred, matcha powder is frequently used to flavor pastries like cookies, cakes, and even lattes. In addition to being delicious, the lengthy history and rich culture of matcha green tea may really heighten your appreciation of the brew.
Sakura Tea (Cherry Blossom)
Sakura, or pastel pink cherry blossoms, will be in full bloom practically wherever you go if you visit Japan in the spring. These gorgeous pink petals can also be used to make a delicate, smooth tea with a silky floral flavor. Sakura isn’t only for show. Sakura tea, which oozes a lovely gradation of pink similar to the blooms, is the ideal companion as you take in the season’s wonder.
Royal Milk Tea
In line with the many teas of Japan, Royal Milk Tea is a distinctive beverage that is very well-liked by Japanese people. A generous amount of milk is then added after this blend of “English” tea (black tea, such as Assam or Darjeeling) has been brewed. Then, depending on taste, this can be sweetened with either milk or honey. This beverage is a year-round staple and can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Genmaicha is a blend of roasted green tea (bancha or sencha), roasted brown rice (genmai), and occasionally white rice. Genmaicha, created in Kyoto by a local businessman, was initially thought of as a common and affordable tea choice.
It is currently loved and recognized for its unique character by many. It varies in quality and grades, just like other kinds of teas. The hue of the tea after brewing is often light yellow. There are leafy and lightly toasted flavors in the scent. It has a well-balanced, nutty, and faintly sweet flavor.
Yakult is frequently referred to be the Japanese beverage that took the world by storm. Yakult is a probiotic yogurt beverage that was first made available in 1935. It tastes great and is very healthy.
With the advent of the Yakult Lady, a marketing strategy whereby amiable and cheery women would go door to door selling Yakult goods, Yakult truly started to take off as a household name throughout the 1980s.
Presently, 35 million Yakult products are reportedly consumed daily across 40 different nations and areas worldwide. Definitely proof of the popularity of Japanese beverages!
Calpis is a non-carbonated soft drink with a particularly distinctive flavor (with a bubbly version called Calpis Soda). It has a creamy and mildly sweet texture, and it tastes a lot like Yakult. It is a drink enjoyed by people of all ages and is available all around Japan.
It’s interesting to note that Calpis was inspired by the traditional Mongolian beverage “airag,” which was sampled by the beverage’s creator, Kaiun Mishima, while on an excursion there.
While most people are familiar with orange or grape soda, many Japanese people prefer the delicious fizz of melon soda. You can buy emerald green melon soda pretty much anywhere in Japan—from convenience stores and eateries to karaoke joints and vending machines. The vibrant fizz, which has a hint of syrupy consistency and is exceedingly sweet, is especially well-liked by children.
Ice cream floats are a hot new way to consume Japanese melon soda. This is how it’s frequently served in family restaurants and karaoke establishments, providing a delightful refresher to beat the heat during the sweltering Japanese summer.
Amazake is a low-alcohol sake variation with an oatmeal-like texture that is thick, sweet, and milky. This is made using unfiltered fermented rice grains, resulting in a chunky, substantial beverage. Since the alcohol concentration is normally so low, even young toddlers are frequently given a glass.
Amazake is also offered by the cup at mountaintop shelters and is a fantastic way to cheer yourself up before descending.
Ramune is a carbonated soda that comes in various flavors and is served in its distinctively shaped glass bottle for a cooling summer treat. It is a summer favorite offered at all matsuri (festivals) and is one of the most uniquely Japanese drinks on this list (despite being initially introduced to Japan by a Scottish pharmacist during the Meiji era).
This beverage, also known as “marble soda” outside of the United States, must be opened by inserting the marble used to seal the bottle into the bottle’s slender neck.
Pocari Sweat, despite having a name that isn’t particularly appealing, is one of the most popular Japanese beverages of all time and a favorite among athletes and those on the go.
Pocari Sweat is a Japanese sports drink that is somewhat comparable to Gatorade. It is a revitalizing and refreshing beverage with a sweet flavor slightly offset by saltiness.
Many people bring it with them when mountain climbing or doing other strenuous physical activity since it helps replenish electrolytes.
Uroncha (Oolong Tea)
One of Japan’s most popular non-alcoholic and refreshing drinks is uroncha, which is the Japanese term for “oolong tea.” Even though the same tea leaves are used to create green tea, black tea, and uroncha, the oxidation method used to produce them differs, giving uroncha intense floral notes that make it a superior palate cleanser.
In fact, many Japanese drinkers at bars and izakaya will order a glass of uroncha in between sips of alcohol to give their stomachs a break.
Flavored Soy Milk
In Japan, soy milk, which is produced naturally by grinding soybeans, has long been used as an alternative to dairy milk. The beverage is used to prepare yuba, which is another dish with a specific designation in Japanese cuisine (the skin that forms atop boiled soy milk). Additionally, it serves as the foundation for the distinctive winter stew tonyu nabe (soy milk hotpot).
But in recent years, the demand for soy milk as a standalone beverage has skyrocketed due to its many flavor possibilities, including matcha, banana, and sakura. Even limited-edition variants like pudding-flavored soy milk are available!
Why do people consume aloe beverages? Benefits include improved gut and hydration as well as healthier skin and liver.
A wide variety of tropical fruits and vegetables are grown in Okinawa. One of the most well-known is possibly the aloe vera plant, which is grown there all year.
The Okinawans credit the plant, which has over 200 active ingredients and vitamins, as one of their longevity secrets. Aloe vera juice and yogurt drinks are currently among Japan’s most readily available beverages.
What could possibly be better than a warm cup of coffee to get you through the morning? A steamy cup of coffee is never too far away, thanks to the special ability of Japanese vending machines to make both hot and cold versions of the same drink. Japanese vending machine coffee is frequently sold in a small, portable container that you can drink down before boarding the train.
When Ueshima Coffee Co. (UCC), a leading Japanese company, entered the market in 1969, the development of canned coffee really got underway. They developed canned coffee to revolutionize the way people drink it. Now, anyone, anywhere, can take advantage of it.
Today, producers offer a wide variety of canned coffee products, from black coffee to milk coffee with various sugar contents. Since the coffees can be either hot or cold, they are excellent for all seasons.
Mugicha (Barley Tea)
Barley tea, also known as mugicha in Japanese, is an infusion created by steeping roasted barley grains in either hot or cold water. Barley tea is technically a tisane, and these days, it’s frequently brewed with roasted and ground barley teabags.
The beverage has ancient origins and is popular throughout Asia. When brewed, barley tea has a flavorful, nutty, earthy aroma and light brown color. The cooler summertime version is frequently served over ice and can be sweetened to taste.
Aojiru (Green Soup)
Aojiru, which translates to “green juice,” is a vegetable-based beverage thought to improve health. Aojiru, a delectable concoction of kale and other leafy green vegetables, is promoted as having anti-aging, weight-loss, and cancer-prevention properties.
Japanese senior citizens and those who are health-conscious about their diets love the packets of aojiru that can be mixed with water. Aojiru can be rather bitter, but it becomes surprisingly palatable when mixed with milk or juice.
In 1943, Dr. Niro Endo, a physician who served in the army, invented Aojiru. He made drinks for his family out of leaves and veggies because he believed tossing them away was a waste. He was able to heal his wife and son of various illnesses.
To enhance the appeal of their products, many businesses additionally use additional ingredients like fruit extract or chia seeds. As a result, many products no longer have the classic Aojiru’s unbearably bitter taste.
The variety of energy drinks available in Japan is almost endless! One of the most infamous products, Lipovitan D11, is sold in 100 ml bottles and packs a powerful punch despite its plain appearance. Although the flavor is not particularly noteworthy, you will feel more awake, aware, and prepared for action after a few minutes of drinking.
Japanese energy drinks claim to improve focus, combat weakness, and weariness, and increase strength and nutrition. They are well-liked beverages among both working adults in Japan who put in a lot of overtime and students preparing for exams.
Many TV advertisements for these beverages highlight their advantages, showing how just one tiny bottle of your preferred energy drink would refresh you to the point that you can remain active for a couple more hours.
Hōjicha (Roasted Green Tea)
Japanese roasted green tea is known as hōjicha. It is produced with green tea that has been intensely roasted, either bancha or sencha. The tea develops a characteristic reddish-brown hue while roasting. Hōjicha is brewed to produce a light brown tea that has a somewhat warmer flavor than regular green tea.
Hōjicha typically features roast-like aromas evocative of coffee, cocoa, and caramel instead of the characteristic green and vegetal aroma. The flavor has roasted undertones that are normally not overbearing and is earthy and gently sweet. Compared to other green teas, hōjicha contains less caffeine and tannins.
Sobacha (Buckwheat Tea)
Sobacha is an infusion or tisane produced with roasted barley, despite the fact that it is frequently referred to as tea. The mixture could contain grains, leaves, or flowers. The beverage is popular outside of Japan in various Asian nations, such as China (kuqiaocha) and South Korea (memil-cha). Check this article to learn some non-alcoholic Korean beverages you can try.
Roasted kernels are simply steeped in hot or cold water to make it. As an alternative, tea bags may be used. The resulting beverage has a yellowish or light brown tint and tastes nutty and earthy with notes of sweetness and mild bitterness. Buckwheat tea is a filling beverage, and many people think it has many health advantages.
Non-Alcoholic Japanese Drinks FAQs
Although traditional Japanese sake is well known, non-alcoholic beverages should also be tried, especially if you are unfamiliar with Japan’s delicious foods.
The majority of non-alcoholic beverages in Japan can be consumed either cold or hot, depending on the season, either fresh or in a bottle. Here are some of the most popular non-alcoholic drinks in Japan:
- Green Tea
- Sakura Tea
- Royal Milk Tea
- Melon Soda
- Pocari Sweat
Regular green tea is the preferred beverage to sip after a meal in the country which gave rise to sushi. Of course, Japanese restaurants have a broad variety of drinks, but many people order sushi to be delivered to their homes or places of business.
Overall, it comes down to personal preference; some people prefer white wine with fish and seafood, others plum wine, and still, others could even argue that when authentic sake is unavailable, beer is the best option.
The most popular beverage in Japan is a lager beer, which is called “beer-ru” in Japanese, despite sake (rice wine) being the country’s national beverage. Brands including Kirin, Sapporo, Suntory, and Asahi are widely accessible.
But beware of less expensive brands; they are actually happoshu, a malt-flavored beverage, not beer at all. The low malt concentration helps the brewers to avoid paying beer taxes while maintaining the appearance and flavor of a cheap beer.