Top 7 Japanese Drinks & Where to Buy Them

by Amy Huang

Japanese cuisine is most well known for things like sushi, ramen, and curry, but with great meals Japanese food is best paired with a great Japanese beverage!, also comes some pretty great beverages! This list will take you through seven Japanese teas and alcohols that will make a great addition to the meals throughout your day! Check out these 3 teas to accompany your breakfast or lunch, and 4 alcohols to pair with your dinner or late-night plans. Many of these teas and alcohols also make a great pairing with Japanese snacks foods in between meals. If you’re interested in mixing up your morning coffee routine, or looking for a fun way to (safely and responsibly) enjoy the nights with your friends, then look no further than this list of teas and spirits! 

 

 

 

 

Teas

Woman drinking traditional tea

Almost everyone by now is familiar with the little rectangular packets that contain tea bags, but if you’re a big tea aficionado, you should consider getting yourself a designated teapot, a staple in Japanese pottery and culture. Having a teapot at home is not only a great way to feel special by putting on your own tea party for one at home, but it’s also a great way to host guests and enjoy non-alcoholic drinks. Teapots also but it’s also a great way to give your tea leaves a chance to breathe and fully capture all of the flavor the leaves have to offer! Check out a few types of Japanese tea below.  

Matcha

Powdered green tea of the tea ceremony

Matcha is becoming more and more popular these days as a flavor. Walk around cafes, scroll on the internet, and you’ll see matcha ice cream, matcha lattes, matcha face wash, and more! Matcha is taking the world by a storm, but what exactly is it? Matcha is a fine powdered green tea that is traditionally used in Japan for ceremonial purposes. Matcha has been a popular part of Japanese culture since the 12th century, and is slowly integrating itself into our mainstream food and beauty culture. 

There are so many ways to enjoy matcha. You can buy matcha at many places online or at some specialty Asian grocery stores. You can try using a matcha whisk to get that super smooth silky signature matcha consistency. Try making your own matcha lattes or hot matcha tea at home! 

 

Hojicha Tea

Roasted green tea is called Hojicha in Japanese

If you haven’t ever tried Hojicha before, then you are seriously missing out. Hojicha is a roasted Japanese green tea leaf, with smoky, nutty, roasted tea flavors. It has less caffeine than its non-roasted counterparts, but its rich and unique flavor makes up for the caffeine content! 

Hojicha may be unfamiliar to some non-Japanese people because it isn't as popular outside of Japan as other types of Japanese tea like green tea. It is occasionally served at restaurants and cafes, but you can find this at many specialty tea shops, online tea shops, and even some supermarket shelves. I promise you, once you find it, you’ll keep wanting more and more! Drink it hot like traditional tea, or cool steep it and have a refreshing iced hojicha tea! If you’re looking for more advanced ways to brew this tea, then steep it and combine it with some warm milk for a hojicha latte.

 

Sakura Tea

If you’re looking forward to spring and warmer weather as much as I am, then you should check out sakura tea. Sakura means cherry blossom in Japanese, and the tea will give you a full spring experience regardless of what the weather is outside. Sakura tea is made with cherry blossoms, which Japan is super famous for in the springtime. Every spring, millions of people will flock to Japan to see the beautiful cherry blossoms bloom, and sakura tea is a great way to cherish these flowers all year long. 

The flavor of sakura tea depends on the type of leaves used in its preparation--some are more bitter than others--but generally speaking it has a mild sweetness and fruity aroma that makes it ideal for anyone looking for something light but flavorful after dinner or before bedtime (or both). If you're looking for an elegant way to try different kinds of teas or craft a milk tea, as well as enjoy something delicious yourself, then this may be just what you need!

 

Alcohols

 

Sake

Man pouring sake in a cup

If you’ve been to a Japanese restaurant and taken a look at the drink menu, you must have come across sake. Sake, pronounced SAH-kay, is a Japanese alcoholic beverage that's brewed from fermented rice. Sake has a high alcohol content--the most popular brands can range between 20% and 18%, so make sure you enjoy this drink responsibly! 

Sake can be served either hot or cold. It is enjoyed for consumption on its own or part of cocktails, or you can even use it as an ingredient in cooking. You'll find many different types available at restaurants or bars across Japan: junmai daiginjo (which means "pure rice premium"), honjozo (with added distilled alcohol) and koshu (an aged type). If you’re looking to purchase sake, you can order some at your local Japanese restaurant, or you can check out your local liquor store. There are even some online companies that specialize in sending Japanese sake straight to your door now!

Many Japanese restaurants will serve you sake in a specialty sake set which consists of a small slender pitcher and delicate little sake cups.

Shochu

 

Shochu is a Japanese alcohol that can be made from rice, barley, or sweet potatoes. It’s a traditional Japanese alcohol that has more of a nutty and earthy flavor. It's served hot or cold and is often mixed with soda water or water to create a Japanese cocktail. Shochus can be enjoyed straight, on the rocks, mixed with juice or soda water to create cocktails like a whiskey sour. Give it a try if you’re feeling adventurous and open to finding your new favorite Japanese alcoholic drink!

Japanese Whisky

If you’re a grammar and spell check guru, your spidey senses might be tingling by looking at the headline that says Japanese “Whisky.” You’re not wrong, it is also frequently spelled “Whiskey” in countries like the United States and Ireland. Japan prefers to use the slightly shorter spelling, and the way that Japan makes whisky is slightly different. It's typically distilled from rice and barley, then aged for a shorter period of time than American whiskeys. Because of this, Japanese whiskey tends to be lighter in color and flavor compared to its American counterpart.

Japanese Whisky has made a name for itself in the international whisky market with some brands of Japanese Whisky being highly awarded around the world. Grab your fanciest glass cup, and craft a delicious Japanese cocktail or pour yourself a glass of Japanese Whisky.

Japanese Plum Wine

Plum wine

Plum wine is a traditional Japanese drink. It's made from fermented plums and has a sweet taste, which makes it a popular drink in Japan. Sweeter than most of your traditional wines, Japanese plum wine is a fruity twist on a classic plum wine. You can serve plum wine hot or cold, over ice or straight out of the bottle!

Women with drinks

We hope you enjoyed learning about these seven Japanese teas and alcohols. We know that there are many more to explore, but we wanted to give you a small preview of what Japanese culture the country has to offer. There is so much more to Japanese cuisine than just ramen and sushi, as hopefully you’ve seen that Japanese drinks are really interesting as well. Whether it's a hot summer day or a cold winter evening--or even if you just want something new--these drinks will certainly satisfy your thirst!

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Author Bio

Amy Huang is a dedicated home chef, charcuterie board aficionado, rock climber, and volleyball player.