Let’s get started on our photo series! More bulky or themed posts will follow soon, but just to show some activity, we’ll be throwing some posts with tidbits about Japan and some of the things you can expect to see here.
Today’s main photo is literally the first drink we bought in Japan, picked by Jola who saw it and cheerily proclaimed its awesomeness not yet knowing what it is exactly. It’s called sokenbicha (phon. “soh-ken-bee-cha”).
Sokenbicha is a brand of tea blend produced – like many of the drinks here – by the Coca-Cola company, and this “so-ken-bi-cha” literally means “refreshing healthy beautiful tea”. I’m not an expert on tea aesthetics, but I like the idea of a beautiful tea. Imagine a Miss Tea contest – now that would be something!
The most popular kind of sokenbicha is a barley blend, which – although not exactly bad – wasn’t the best thing we’ve ever drunk. But perhaps it’s an acquired taste.
Apart from the obvious green tea (in its most common varieties of sencha and matcha (phon. “maht-cha”), Japan also offers several other kinds of tea, with the most prevalent being:
- houjicha (fon. “ho-jee-cha”) – also a green tea, but… roasted! So it has more of a red/black tea color than a green tea, and has an unusual, albeit fairly pleasant flavor.
- genmaicha (fon. “gen-mai-cha”) – a green tea blend with roasted rice grains.
It’s important to note that these teas are very mild, and while they’re not bland, they also don’t have overpowering flavors, which makes them perfect for warm weather.
Houjicha is very often served instead of water in restaurants or food joints that server udon or ramen or other traditional japanese dishes. Usually there’s a whole pitcher of water or houjicha (as you can see in the picture above) on the table. It’s completely free, and most of the time it’s also provided as a welcome drink to chill down while deciding what to order (and that can sometimes take a while, especially with Japanese-only menus!)
Of course the Japanese don’t just drink tea all the time, and most of the other drinks available are similar to what you might see in your own country. However the flavorings on some of them can be quite interesting and uncommon, e.g. a peach coke. I know what you’re thinking. “that’s gross! Coke and peach? Those two just don’t add up!“. But they do! Not only that, the drink was much tastier than we’d expected 🙂
And where can you find such weird flavor combos? Probably in huge supermarkets or novelty shops, right? Nope – most of that stuff is easily found in a convenience store. And if there isn’t any near you or they’re all closed, you can visit a vending machine – always available, everywhere.
You can really count on these guys, they’ll never let you down! Not only are they literally everywhere, they also just work! No money-stealing or rejecting coins, and definitely no “out-of-order” signs (unless as a deliberate ruse – we’ll write about that another time). The cold drinks always come out cold, the hot ones always come out hot, and they actually do always drop without you having to worry about whether or not you’ll be out of luck today.
There’s so much more to write about the various beverages you can find here, and I’ll maybe even write a follow-up post. But for now, this is a already becoming fairly long, so that’s it for now.
Till next time!