About 1000 years ago Umeshu came from China to Japan. It was first used as medicine against a bad through. The word Umeshu first time is documented in a dictionary on Japanese food in 1697. Home made Umeshu is very popular since it is delicious and easy to make. Since a few years, there is a small Umeshu boom and many small breweries launched their own brands. Choya Umeshu is the market leader with around 30% market share, but there are a few hundred brands in the market now with a large variety in flavors.
Umeshu are first classified by their base alcohol. It is mostly made from four alcohols:
- Shochu and Awamori
- White liquor
Nowadays breweries also become very creative in adding new flavors to Umeshu. So far we have seem Umeshu with banana, green or black tea, shiso, lemon grass, mango, passion fruit, ginger, etc.
Choya Umeshu is the market leader for Umeshu famous for the green bottles with ume plums inside. It is a nice product but there are more than 300 other umeshu brands from small sakes breweries which add a lot of variety to umeshu appearance and flavors. Whereas the mass products usually are very sweet the small breweries often produce umeshu with is based on one of their core products Sake or Shochu and often uses less sugar. The pleasure of exploring umeshu is to taste different brands and enjoy the different flavors.
How to best enjoy Umeshu
The most common way to drink Umeshu is on the rock – you can basically enjoy any Umeshu on the rock. The problem with ice is that it quickly significantly dilutes the delicate flavor of most Umeshu.
In summer it also is common to drink Umeshu soda – making it a very refreshing drink. In winter it gets more and more popular to drink Umeshu in hot water – this really warms body and soul. Especially our Shoga Umeshu with ginger is very popular in winter.
You can also use Umeshu for any cocktail that requires fruit and / or acid.