Japan’s favorite yogurt-based soft drink gets a new recipe.

Popular Japanese soft drink Calpis is said to have “the flavor of youth,” since the yogurt-like beverage has a mix of sweet and tart flavors and in Japanese amazuppai, literally “sweet-sour,” is the word used to describe “bittersweet” emotions, like the wistful mix of feelings that so often accompany one’s teen years.

However, the Calpis brand itself is over a hundred years old, and its best-selling pre-mixed, ready-to-drink version, Calpis Water, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. To mark that milestone, Calpis’ parent company Asahi has decided to revamp its recipe, the first update in eight years. With the new version going on sale at the start of this month, we went out and picked up a bottle of the new Calpis water, grabbed a leftover old-version one from our fridge, and handed both to our in-house Calpis Water fan, Seiji Nakazawa.

Seiji has spent the last few decades guzzling down Calpis Water, and says he’s bought more bottles of it than any other drink from Japan’s ubiquitous vending machines. Some people say that Calpis is best as a summer drink, but for Seiji, it’s a drink for all seasons, so if anyone’s taste buds were going to be able to tell the difference between the new and old versions, they were Seiji’s.

New Calpis Water (left) and old (right)

Visually, there’s not much difference, although the new Calpis Water gets a new label with some lens-flare sunshine. There’s also red Japanese text at the top left saying “Smooth and refreshing.”

Seiji started with the new version, twisting off the cap and taking a sip, and his immediate reaction was:

“This tastes just like what I’m used to from the old version.”

This was a surprise, since Asahi has promised that the new Calpis Water is sweeter and more delicious than its predecessor. To Seiji, though, the new Calpis Water felt as familiar and comforting as a cherished high school photo, and he couldn’t notice anything different about it…until he took a sip of the old Calpis Water, that is.

As soon as the old Calpis Water hit his flavor receptors, Seiji realized that there actually is a difference between them. The new version is definitely sweeter, but it’s not just the flavor itself that’s evolved, but the beverage’s mouthfeel and drinking sensation too. “Where and when you feel the sweetness is different” he learned. “The sweetness comes on sooner with the new version. You feel it more on your tongue, and then it ends with a cleaner finish. The old Calpis Water’s sweetness peaks a little later. It’s delayed, and you feel it more in your throat.”

This actually meshes with an experience a number of Japanese people have reported with Calpis Water in the past, in which they felt like Calpis Water left a lingering sensation after they swallowed their sip, and it wasn’t something that everyone thought was pleasant. The reformulated Calpis Water seems to have cut down on that, making it more refreshing in the process.

So overall, the new version is close enough to the old one that preexisting fans of Calpis Water won’t mind it, and may not even notice it unless they’re doing a back-to-back taste test like Seiji did. And for those who weren’t totally onboard with Calpis Water before? This might be a good time to give it another chance.

Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]