Drinks in Tokyo
Being Japan’s staple beverage, its influence on the cuisine is unmistakable. You will see tea flavoured ice creams, cakes, chips & crackers, milk shakes and more.
The flavour is very earthy and bitter, foreigners may find it takes some getting used to, as you typically don’t add sugar and cream to soften the taste.
There are several varieties and grades of macha, from cheap common leaves to finely ground powdered macha (used in Japanese Tea Ceremony)
Basic green tea
Mugicha (Tea brewed from barley)
Hojicha (a coarse tea)
Genmaicha (brown rice)
Sencha (medium grade)
Gyokuro (delicate high grade)
Powdered Macha (used for tea ceremony)
One of the few alcohols that gets worse with age, Japan’s sake stands in stark contrast to its Western counterparts which can spend decades maturing in the cellars.
Made from fermented rice and water, it is typically served warm to lukewarm in a small cup, while sometimes it is served chilled.
Sake is known for its potency and ability to completely inebriate in just a few drinks.
As expected you will find Mountain Dew, Pepsi, Sprite and all of the other standard American soft drinks (however only in convenience stores and supermarkets, vending machines will only carry Coke or Pepsi). But among such plebian company are a great variety of new and un-expected flavours.
A typical Japanese soft drink is a carbonated and sugarized green tea flavour, tasting much like Lipton’s Ice Tea.
For something spicy and likely to clear your sinuses in a big way, there are ginger sodas, sugary and lightly carbonated, these have a high content of pure ginger; one taste very well may burn your tongue.
Something which deserves its very own article we will touch on briefly here, and that is Japanese Vending Machines.
Its amazing that the Japanese stay as thin as they do, because you will find these machines literally every 50 feet in the city. With selections of hot and cold tea, coffees (yes that's right they are heated so you can have a steaming espresso or tea in the middle of winter), and a plethora of fruit drinks, the only drink a westerner will recognize is Coke, everything else is native to Japan. Their sports drinks tend to all have a flavor of 'grapefruit' or 'lemon'.
The amusement continues with vending machines dedicated solely to selling beer. But wait, how do they prevent minors from purchasing alcohol? Retnal scans and database lookups? Yes, each vending machine comes equipped with a retnal scan in order to verify legal drinking age. NOT! There are no restrictions, a 5 year old could go get himself a beer at one of these machines.
While not quiet as enthusiastic about Jo than their American counterparts, the Japanese have a fair amount of coffee shops in Tokyo, cappuccinos starting at around $3 US. And yes there are plenty of Starbucks shops but not nearly as many as there are in the US.
If you're ever feeling home sick you can always stop by your local Starbucks and get a Caramel Frappacino, or if you're feeling adventurous a Green Tea Frappaccino, which you very well may turn green with nausea.