8 Irresistible and Refreshing Japanese Beverages to Savor this Summer

Japan's wonderful summer will be upon us soon. Think pristine beaches and fun-filled games of volleyball. Think lively streets and boisterous summer festivals. With the energy level turned up a few notches in summer, it's great that we have delicious drinks to match. From bubble tea to something called "mugicha," here are 8 drinks you shouldn't miss this summer!

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1. Bubble Tea

When even news channels report on the snaking queues outside famous bubble tea shops, you know that bubble tea, otherwise known as tapioca tea, has charmed its way into the hearts of Japanese consumers and onto their Instagram accounts. Originating from Taiwan, bubble tea makes for a delightful experience. Its sweet flavored tea with milk not only gives your palate a wholesome lift, but its black tapioca balls are fun to chew on, literally giving your tasting experience that extra bite.

What's more, bubble tea comes in a wide array of flavors, running the gamut from hojicha (roasted green tea) to spice-flavored tea and even fruit teas. All this means that you are bound to find a drink that will hit your sweet spot. The fact that its bright eye-catching colors liven up your Instagram also adds a dose of fun to your trip!

Drinking bubble tea could also be a great way to travel the world without leaving Japan's shores, for these crowd-pleasers come from all over Asia. For Taiwanese brands, you could try out the signature drinks from Chun Shui Tang, KOI Thé and Gong Cha. Or if you are game for addictively sweet Thai tea, Piyanee would be right up your alley. Also, you will probably want to partake of Japanese artisanal tea, so don't forget to hit OCHABA up since its tea leaves are sourced from Shizuoka Prefecture.

We have painstakingly compiled this ultimate guide for you to facilitate your planning, so be sure to refer to it: 17 Bubble Tea Shops + Tapioca Desserts to Try in Tokyo!

2. Ramune

Fancy a soft drink that functions like a toy? With Ramune, you can have some fun before quenching your thirst! A lemon-flavored carbonated soda drink, Ramune is phonetically dervied from the English word "lemon" and pays homage to how this beverage was introduced to Japan by the British in the 1880s. Since then, it has been so well-loved by the Japanese that drinking Ramune in summer is a ritual of familiarity - one that you should try out for yourself!

 

Just how does it work like a toy? Well, when you try to open a bottle, you will see a plunger. This is because Ramune uses a unique Codd-neck bottle, in which a marble is used to seal it. So what you need to do is to pop out the plunger and use your palm to push down the marble stopper. You may go "aww" with amazement as you see vigorous fizzing as a result of the marble being pushed into the bottle. Guzzle Ramune then and find yourself popping with energy!

Click here for an excellent step-by-step guide on how to open a bottle of Ramune from WikiHow.

Incidentally, if you are a fan of Kit Kat and its myriad flavors, you will surely fall in love with Ramune as it boasts many exotic flavors as well. Why not titillate your tastebuds with wasabi Ramune, takoyaki Ramune, curry Ramune, ginseng Ramune, and many more?

3. Beer

You cannot say to have visited Japan in summer if you never drink to your heart's content at one of the ubiquitous beer gardens. If you are not familiar with the concept of a beer garden, it is a food and beer haven typically set up at the top of department stores and restaurants during summertime. Hordes of Japanese people congregrate at these boisterious gardens to enjoy the charming night sky and some delicous beer with friends. 

So here are some awesome beer gardens where you can enjoy your beer with relish: Make the Most of the Remainder of Summer! 3 Beer Gardens in Tokyo.

And what are the not-to-be-missed beer brands you can look forward to chugging down? Renowned brands like Kirin, Sapporo, Asahi and Suntory need no introduction, but do you know that you can unwind yourself and get yourself in the mood for indulgence with exquisite craft beers - all lovingly made in Japan? A cold glass of beer that showcases a uniquely novel taste and helps you beat the sweltering heat - don't miss it for the world!

4. Yogurt Drinks

Another delectable drink that you should try is none other than Calpis. A milk/yogurt-based drink, it is not only an invigorating drink that is body-and-soul-cooling in the sweltering heat, but is also healthy as it contains lactic acid bacterium, which will increase good bacteria and suppress the growth of harmful bacteria. All this will help maintain a healthy digestive system as you feast your way across Japan!

Needless to say, Calpis comes in a variety of flavors, often showcasing fresh locally-grown fruits. An interesting thing to do when you arrive at a new prefecture is to patronize a convenience store and purchase the local variety of Calpis that is not readily available elsewhere.

Additionally, well-established restaurant chains will introduce their special menu items during summer. For instance, Doutor has launched a pineapple yogurt drink, so you can enjoy the taste of succulent pineapples and creamy yogurt blended in perfect harmony. Not to be outdone, Starbucks Japan - paying homage to Japan's long-cherished tradition of fermentation - has introduced a Lemon Yogurt Hakko Frappuccino. Jazz up your summer with seasonal flavors!

5. Energy Drinks

A perennial favorite among the Japanese is the energy drink. It's easy to feel exhausted while going about their daily routine in furnace-hot summer, so the Japanese pop over to a convenience store or even vending machine and grab an energy drink for a quick boost. Often, these energy drinks contain various B vitamins and vitamin C that are great for enriching one's health. 

Consumers are spoilt for choice in regards to energy drinks. Perhaps you would like to try Pocari Sweat and Aquarius which have a mild grapefruit-like flavor. Or you could savor Suntory Vitamin Water and see if its lemon-flavored taste resonates with you.

6. Bottled Tea

Tea features prominently in Japan's health-conscious culture, so the tea aficionados among us will take great delight in the diverse kinds of bottled tea available at convenience stores and supermarkets. Prominent tea brand, Ayataka, for instance, offers a selection replete with delicate and nuanced flavors: "amami" green tea, roasted green tea, and hoji tea. Never to rest on its laurels, it has recently released its latest product - roasted rice tea - which boasts a unique taste you won't be able to get enough of.  

If you are hankering for something a bit more toasty, mugicha (toasted barley tea) will appeal to you. Made by simmering roasted barley grains, a cold bottle of mugicha is the perfect antidote to a blistering summer day as its rejuvenating taste soothes your tastebuds and quenches your thirst. Not only that, it is chock-full of health benefits as it is both caffeine-free and sugar-free. Fun fact: it contains compounds like melatonin that will help you sleep better - which is exactly what you need after a hectic day of travelling. So what better way to nourish your body and mind than drinking mugicha? 

7. DIY Cocktails

Also available at supermarkets and convenience stores is its fascinating range of Chu-hai, which is shochu (a kind of distilled liquor) combined with flavored soda water. Due to its tantalizing fruity taste and freshness of the soda, it is the top choice among many discerning foodies. In fact, refer to our ultimate guide to all the tasty chu-hai you can get your hands on: 10 Japanese Chu-hai You Can Buy at Convenience Stores.

More adventurous foodies can even opt to make their own cocktails instead of buying chu-hai off the shelves. Many Japanese people buy their preferred liquor and mix it with shikuwasa (Okinawan citrus fruit) soda or bottled grapefruit juice. When in Japan, do as the Japanese do - and revel in the joy of handcrafting your very own deliciously divine cocktail!

8. Water

Water, yes, water. Now water may seem like a boring choice, what with the dizzying array of drinks you can sample in Japan, but in a country where its pristine waters are said to contribute to the quality skin condition of her people, why not treat your body to some pure yummy water? 

In fact, given the innovative nature of the Japanese, you can expect to have a jolly good time even when you drink water. Lose yourself in the fascinating range of options. As one might expect, there are many kinds of fruit-flavored water; common fruits used include peaches, apples, lemons and mikan (mandarin oranges).

Then, there are the unusual flavors that will make you raise your eyebrows. For example, you can savor the Suntory Natural Mineral Water Premium Morning Tea Milk and marvel at how it boasts the aroma of Assam tea while remaining colorless. Or you can sip the Asahi Clear Latte Coffee-Flavored Water that contains an espresso extract and milk ingredient components. Or slake your thirst with Suntory All-Free All-Time beer-flavored water!

What’s not to love about a cold drink that will delight your tastebuds and lift your spirits? Fear the notoriously hot Japanese summer no more!

Header Image: dekitateyo / Shutterstock

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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