Most traditional Japanese drinks are famous for their health benefits and unique taste. Although consumption of these drinks is on the decrease among Japanese people due to diverse choices of beverage introduced from overseas and the Westernization of food culture in Japan, they are still very popular among health-oriented consumers that they will suddenly go viral when celebrities or health bloggers introduce these via the Internet. In this article, we will show you our recommendations for 10 healthy Japanese drinks including from those globally well-known to beverages that are niche yet worth trying.
A Global Japanese Drink Phenomenon
Although Matcha is a powdered green tea, strictly speaking, it refers to young tea leaves grown in the shade that are ground on a millstone and steamed immediately after picking. By doing these things, matcha will have an intense umami, a faint sweetness, and a beautiful green color. Its original use is as a drink for the Japanese tea ceremony, but its application has gone beyond this to include umami enhancing, food coloring, and ingredients for sweets. For more details on this wonderful Japanese drink, please also check out our blog post about best matcha powders.
What makes matcha healthy largely accounts for a kind of umami formula called L-theanine. This amino acid helps enhance your health physically and psychologically thanks to its effects of relaxation and sound sleep promotion. L-theanine is also said to increase your concentration: one research shows that 19 amateur golf players improved their average success rate of 2.5-meter putting from roughly 35% to 50% after consuming theanine.
Mugicha Barley Tea
Best Non-caffeine Drink for Rehydrating in the Hot Season
Another standard drink in Japan, mugicha barley tea offers you a refreshing experience that is quite different from green tea. It uses roasted, whole barley grains, which have a mellow aroma and slightly bitter aftertaste. Rich in minerals, it is a summer staple and handy solution for water replacement in Japan. It also does not contain caffeine, so it is ideal as a pre-bed drink and friendly to children and the elderly. Its unique aroma derives from compounds called alkylpyrazine: this ameliorates blood viscosity, so it is effective in improving blood conditions.
Fermented Drink with Its Nickname Known as Drinkable IV Drip
This Japanese rice drink is a Japanese fermented drink basically made from kome koji (malted rice). There are two types of amazake. One of these two, usually called sake kasu amazake, has a blander taste yet is rich in nutrients including fiber, folic acid, and B vitamins. It also supports skin turnover while restraining melanin generation, so it is a perfect drink to promote beauty. In contrast, another type of amazake is called kome koji amazake, which has a richer umami and natural sweetness. This sweet taste derives from the glucose and oligosaccharide, and these are helpful for fatigue recovery and intestinal condition improvement, respectively.
One thing you have to note about amazake is alcohol. The kome koji amazake is alcohol-free while the sake kasu amazake includes alcohol, though its alcohol content is far less than other alcoholic drinks. Therefore, for children, pregnant, and others who cannot consume alcohol due to religious or health reasons, you should avoid choosing sake kasu amazake.
A Permanent and Prominent Traditional Japanese Drink
Green tea, also known as sencha, is definitely the standard drink consumed in Japan regardless of gender or generation. Technically, it is made from steamed green tea leaves that are sufficiently left in the sun. With this process, the L-theanine turns to catechin: a kind of polyphenol, which is regarded as a component of the astringency and bitterness unique to green tea. As a result, sencha tea has less umami but is lighter and fresher in terms of taste than matcha. For health benefits, regular consumption of green tea allows you to reduce the risk of viral infections, cancers, cavities, and obesity. Our favorite sencha green tea includes Itoen Oi Ocha Premium Japanese Green Tea because its triangle tea bag makes it very easy for you to prepare a cup of green tea. It also contains matcha, so you can easily appreciate it even if you do not like the bitter taste of green tea much.
Low-caffeine Variation of Green Tea
As long as it is not stewed, green tea is less bitter than black coffee; however, there are still many people who dislike its intense bitterness. If you are one of them, try hojicha. Hojicha is a deep-roasted green tea with less caffeine and tannin (one of the polyphenols that comprises astringency), so it is much easier to drink than the green tea. Its blander taste makes it perfect for seasoning with other ingredients such as milk, honey, and maple syrup. The major health benefits that hojicha brings that surpass those of green tea include improvement of skin roughness, skin moisturization, and alleviation of cold constitution.
Our several recommendations of hojicha roasted green tea include an authentic hojicha from Ippodo, one of the long-lasting Japanese tea stores in Kyoto. You can also enjoy a ready-to-serve instant hojicha latte with the Muji Instant Hojicha Latte powder.
Aojiru Green Juice
A Convenient Drink for Supplementing a Poor Intake of Vegetables
Aojiru green juice is a mixture of dehydrated green and yellow vegetables. Nowadays, the base ingredients of most aojiru drinks are young barley leaves, kale, or ashitaba (Angelica keiskei). This means you can easily take the most necessary nutrition richly found in vegetables by mixing it with water or soup, so if you feel your diet is getting unbalanced, consume a cup of aojiru green juice every day. It is also very convenient to carry aojiru around because each serving of it is usually packaged in a compact sachet. Furthermore, you can create a healthy and beautifully green pancake, muffin, or cake by adding it to the dough of such foods.
Kurozu Black Vinegar
A Fermented Drink That is Easier to Drink Than Rice Vinegar
Kurozu, also known as black vinegar, is a kind of Japanese vinegar that is mainly produced in the Kyusyu region. It is made with water, genmai brown rice, and koji malt, and these are stored in a local’s traditional ceramic jar, and then slowly aged for several years. As a result, it has a milder aroma and taste than ordinary rice vinegar, which is famous for its sharp feel on the palate. Its mildness means it is quite easy to consume and you can even drink it as it is, instead of using it as a seasoning. Regarding nutrition, kurozu is rich in vitamins and minerals. One of the best artisan kurozu vinegars you should try includes the black vinegar from Sakamoto Satsuma.
Kuromamecha (Black Soybean Tea)
Best for Acquiring Anti-oxidant Effects
Kuromamecha, literally means “black soybean tea”, is another traditional Japanese drink popular among health-oriented consumers. This tea has no caffeine and has a slight yet natural sweetness, so it is easy to drink and can pair well with any type of cuisine. Kuromamecha is rich in anthocyanin, allowing you to obtain anti-aging and antioxidant effects from inside your body. What makes this tea’s anthocyanin different from others is that it is water-soluble and resistant to heat, so you can efficiently take it even if you heat it thoroughly. On top of that, kuromamecha is the best accompaniment to a collagen supplement because its anthocyanin is said to promote collagen generation.
Shiitake Mushroom Tea
A Drinkable Umami Made from a Major Type of Japanese Mushroom
Shiitake mushroom, noted for its rich umami contents and various health benefits (for more details on shiitake mushrooms, please also see our Beginner’s Guide on Mushrooms), is commonly used for culinary purposes while the tea made from this fungus seems to be less popular among consumers; nonetheless, it is definitely one of the Japanese drinks you should try. Many of those who try shiitake tea argue that it tastes like a soup rather than tea because of its rich umami. With this feature, it is acceptable to consume it as a soup base. You can even enjoy shiitake tea by adding some condiments to it like black pepper and wasabi.
Gobocha Burdock Tea
A Vegetable Tea That Combines Tastiness with Health Benefits
Gobocha is a non-caffeine roasted tea made of dried burdock. It features an earthy taste, faint sweetness, and flavorful aroma. This Japanese drink is rich in a dietary fiber called inulin and an organic compound called saponin. Inulin helps suppress absorption of sugar and improve your intestinal environment while saponin is expected to increase your immune system and provide strong antioxidant benefits.
Our store offers the Gobocha Japanese Burdock Root Tea with several comments from our customers who have positively evaluated its taste and health benefits. It is also said that its used tea leaves can be a great seasoning for soups and simmered dishes; these uses not only allow you to acquire additional fiber but also to prevent food waste.