Because 23 is too many to say “I’ll just drink all of them,” unless you’re us, that is.

Kikkoman is, first and foremost, a soy sauce maker. What you might not know, though, is that the company also sells a huge variety of soy milk, or tonyu, as it’s called in Japanese.

You can find Kikkoman soy milk in any supermarket or convenience store in Japan, available in paper drink boxes for an on-the-go-thirst quencher. However, when we say Kikkoman has a lot of different types of soy milk, we mean a lot. On our recent trip to the grocery store, we counted 23 different kinds…so we bought them all to see which are the best.

Before we go any further, let’s look at our complete list of contenders.

From left to right, staring in the top row and working our way down, those are:
● Processed Soy Milk
● Raw Soy Milk
● Extra-Rich Soy Milk
● Mango
● Malted Coffee
● Black Chocolate
● Melon
● Watermelon
● White Peach
● Mixed Fruit
● Coconut Mango
● Purin (Custard Pudding)
● Vanilla Ice Cream
● Almond
● Mont Blanc
● Matcha
● Choco Mint
● Black Tea
● Honey
● Black Sesame
● Cheesecake
● Banana
● Cocoa

To start off, our taste tester Ikuna Kamezawa took back-to-back sips of the two most basic varieties, Processed and Raw Soy Milk, seen on the left and right, respectively, in the photo below.

There’s actually a pretty striking difference between the two, as the Raw one has a very subtle flavor. It’s so subtle that Ikuna recommends it only for soy milk veterans whose taste buds are attuned to the drink’s baseline taste, as others might find it too bland for their liking. “It’s sort of the opposite situation from cow’s milk, where processing tends to remove flavor,” says Ikuna.

And with that, it was time to see how the other, more creative flavors of Kikkoman soy milk taste.

After trying each and every one, Ikuna put together a list of her top five recommendations for palate-pleasing, smooth-drinking soy sipping.

5. Choco Mint

Like with a lot of food and drinks in Japan, Kikkoman has an ever-changing lineup of seasonal flavors for its soy milk, which is why there are so many tropical ones in stores right now. Another great midsummer taste, though, is Choco Mint, which has been the big trendy sweets flavor in Japan for the last few summers. Kikoman’s Chocolate Mint has strong sweet notes that partially cover up some of the soy milk notes, but it’s still a sufficiently balanced and very refreshing drink, especially if you chill it before drinking.

4. Almond

Ikuna admits this might be a divisive pick, because of how intense the almond flavor is. “It’s really like you’re drinking liquified almonds,” she says, but if you’re nuts for the nut, she says it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

3. Cocoa

It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like chocolate, so it’s going to be hard to find someone who doesn’t like this. This being a Japanese chocolate-flavored drink, it’s not cloying or syrupy, but instead a gentle, comforting sweetness that kids and adults alike can enjoy.

2. Black Tea

Though matcha didn’t make Ikuna’s cut for the top five, Western-style black tea, or kocha, to use the Japanese term, did. There’s a bit of a twist here, though, in that the Kikkoman Black Tea soy milk has a stronger flavor than the bottled milk teas sold in Japanese convenience stores, and the specific soy milk flavor makes this into a drink that’s close to chai tea in the taste department.

1. Banana

Ikuna’s number-one pick is pretty much perfect, she says. Banana milk, basically a banana and milk smoothie, has been a popular drink in Japan for decades, and each sip was a nostalgic trip back to her days of drinking it as a little kid. At the same time, there’s a banana juice boom going on in Japan right now, with popular cafes and drink stands in trendy neighborhoods drawing crowds of customers, but Ikuna says the Kikkoman banana soy milk lets you enjoy the flavor without having to wait in a long line under the hot sun.

On the other end of the spectrum, while they’re not bad, Honey, Cheesecake, and Black Sesame are likely to be a little too out there for most people’s tastes, Ikuna says. Of course, there’s always the chance that they’ll be right in the strike zone of your preferences, and with Kikkoman soy milk priced at only about 100 yen (US$90) each, it’s not a major loss if you try a flavor and don’t like it. If you’re looking for a place to start on your Kikkoman soy milk odyssey, though, Ikuna’s top five will steer you in the right direction.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]