Japan is home to all sorts of innovative snacks and beverages – but no drink is more widely loved by the Japanese – both young and old – than Calpis. Its name comes from a combination of the essential mineral “calcium” and the sanskrit word “sarpis” – meaning “best taste”. “Calpis” doesn’t exactly roll off the western tongue, so it's marketed as Calpico abroad.
Sweet and tangy – Calpis comes in different varieties and flavors to suit anyone’s taste buds, but at the end of the day it’s the core formula that makes this dairy based drink so unique.
Known as Japan’s “first lactic acid beverage” – Calpis was invented by Japanese business man Kaiun Mishima after visiting inner Mongolia in the early 1900’s. It was there that he discovered a fermented milk beverage that locals drank to keep healthy in Mongolia’s harsh climate.
Mishima was surprised to find that the fermented milk was not only delicious but also beneficial to his own health. He claimed that after drinking the local brew, his digestion – which had been upset during his long journey – was completely restored. Not only that – he apparently felt incredibly energized in both body and mind.
After returning home, Mishima dedicated himself to researching the secrets behind the delicious tang and healthy properties of the fermented Mongolian beverage. He eventually discovered that it was all due to the lactobacilli bacteria used in the fermentation process. Mishima was fascinated by this process, proclaiming "I want to make a drink that can contribute to people's lives!”. Utilizing lactic acid fermentation, Mishima’s research finally resulted in the legendary beverage Calpis.
Feeling thirsty? Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to enjoy Japan’s most unique dairy-based drink!
Homemade Calpis Water / Milk
A concentrated form of Calpis is typically sold at grocery stores. You can then add cold ice water, warm water, or milk to dilute the solution into a refreshing drink for any season! Because Calpis is super sweet – it’s a great way to convince young children to drink their milk.
Besides, it doesn’t just taste better – Calpis contains additional health benefits they wouldn’t otherwise get from milk alone. Sweet deal!
Calpis Soda is premixed to perfection and ready to drink straight from the bottle! A popular konbini classic, there are lots of unique flavors to try. Fruity flavors are abundant – you can find Calpis Soda in orange, grape, apple, and even Chardonnay flavors! The lactic tang of Calpis goes really well with these bright fruit flavors – especially on a hot and humid Japanese summer day.
Calpis Fried Chicken
Hold up… Calpis fried chicken? Oh yeah.
It may sound odd at first, but it really makes a lot of sense. The lactic acid that gives Calpis it’s signature flavor also makes it a great marinade for fried chicken – just like buttermilk does. The lactic acid tenderizes the chicken as it marinates – ensuring that the finished product will be super juicy – and the added sugars help give your next fried chicken dish a unique tangy flavor unlike anything you’ve ever tried before!
Calpis is seriously sweet – no pun intended! Have you ever tried Calpis in your home country? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it? At TokyoTreat, we’re personally partial to the fried chicken! (o;
Let us know in the comments below!
Tanner is a content editor and marketing associate based in Tokyo, Japan. As a former professional cook, he loves exploring Tokyo's food scene and cooking at home for his partner. He also enjoys bad puns, decent coffee, oxford commas, and reading fantastic genre fiction.
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