Calpico: An Enduring Favorite

A non-carbonated soft drink, with a milky texture and a sweet, but slightly sour finish describes the unique but delicious flavor of the Japanese drink Calpico (known as Calpis in Japan). The slight tanginess, often described by drinkers as a “citrusey” taste comes from the fermentation process used to create the drink and is a definitely a note that sets Calpico apart.

Calpico has its start at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1902, the company’s founder, Kaiun Mishima, traveled to mainland China on a sort of sabbatical. During his time on the Asian continent, he stopped for a while in Mongolia where he had the opportunity to try a local fermented milk drink called kumis. Mishima was not only impressed by the flavor of the drink, but the active cultures present in it restored the digestive upset he had sustained from travelling. In 1915, Mishima returned to Japan, determined to create a fermented milk drink of his own. After a period of recipe experimentation, in 1919, Calpico was released to the public, at the time sold as a concentrate. It didn’t take long for Calpico’s popularity to skyrocket, and it has remained a favorite drink ever since. In its original, concentrate form, Calpico does not need to be refrigerated, which contributed greatly to its popularity in pre-war Japan where refrigeration was not yet common.

Like kumis, the drink that inspired it, Calpico is made through a process of fermenting milk with live, active cultures. First, fresh, skimmed milk is combined with a proprietary starter culture made from yeast and lactobacillus bacteria. The milk is left to ferment and the flavor is allowed to age bef