What Is Calpico? 2023 ultimate guide to learning more about this delicious beverage

Ready to try something new? Try Calpico!

Calpico White Peach and Calpico Strawberry in transparent espresso glasses on a peach background, with snow peas in foreground
Calpico White Peach and Calpico Strawberry in glasses

Are you tired of sipping on the same old drinks? Spice up your taste buds with Calpico! This mysterious and delicious drink has been a favorite in Japan for over 100 years but is just starting to make waves in other parts of the world.

If you’re wondering what exactly Calpico is and how it can benefit your day to day, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything from its history to flavor profiles to quirky ways people around the globe enjoy it.

So sit back, grab a glass of ice-cold Calpico, and dive into what makes this drink unique and special. Learn more about how it’s made and how to enjoy it around the year with a variety of foods.

What is Calpico?

Calpico is a non-alcoholic, sweet, and tangy drink that is made from fermented cow milk. The milk undergoes lactic acid fermentation using lactic acid bacteria. While that sounds really complex, really all this is saying is that Calpico is made of primarily milk that undergoes this type of fermentation.

As a result of this treatment, it is often described as having a yogurt-like taste with a creamy texture. There’s usually citric acid as well in the ingredient list, which lends to a citrus flavor in some of the flavors.

Outside of Japan the product is branded Calpico and sold in ready to drink format. In Japan, the product is typically sold as a concentrate and branded Calpis. For all intents and purposes, Calpico and Calpis are the same product, except Calpico is just pre-mixed.

The beverage is typically sold in many different formats such as a bottle or can and comes in several flavors such as original, peach, mango, and strawberry. Additionally it comes in many different shapes and sizes, in case you need to buy to drink immediately or for events via bulk:

  • Ready to drink bottles – non-carbonated plastic bottles (16.9 fl oz)
  • Soda (carbonated, 11.3 fl oz)
  • Canned (carbonated and non-carbonated, 11.3 fl oz)
  • Large bulk format (50.7 fl oz, 1.5 liters)
  • Minis (similar to Yakult, but original & flavored, 2.7 fl oz each)
  • Concentrate small bottles (original, strawberry, pineapple & many special or limited edition flavors, 15.9 fl oz)
  • Concentrate cartons (33.3 fl oz / 1 liter)

History of Calpico

Calpico was first created in 1919 in Japan by Kaiun Mishima, who was inspired by the Mongolian beverage Airag / Ayrag / Kumis, which is made from fermented horse milk. Mishima traveled to inner Mongolia at the beginning of the 20th century, and met the nomadic herders that lived on the Mongolian steppes. He was introduced to their spring ritual to milk their horses and then ferment the milk into Kumis. Kumis supposedly had a wide variety of health and gastrointestinal benefits, and after trying it Mishima agreed – his stomach was reinforced and he felt inspired to bring this beverage back to Japan.

As a result, Mishima spent years trying to cultivate and ferment cow’s milk back in Japan (since horse milk is uncommon). After over a decade of experimenting with the formula using milk and lactic acid bacteria for fermentation, Mishima launched Calpis in 1919 to Japan.

The name “Calpis” comes from “calcium” and the word “Salpis” (Sanskrit word for the second of the five flavors of Buddhism). The name “Calpico” is derived from the words “Calpis” and “co,” where “co” means “company.” The name reflects the company’s original goal of producing a nutritious and healthy beverage.

Since the drink’s inception, it has continued to grow in popularity. Given its incredible brand popularity and distinctive name, the company was acquired by Asahi in 2012 for 120 billion Yen or $1.5 billion in USD. Since then it has continued to thrive under the large beverage holding company.

Fun fact – while we know it as a ready to go drink on the shelves of grocery stores today, when Calpico was first introduced, it was introduced as a high end beverage and regularly gifted through Japan given its rarity and unique flavor. Very interesting how drinks evolve over 100 years!

How is Calpico Made?

The drink is made from a blend of non-fat dry milk, water, lactic acid, and sugar. The mixture is then fermented for several hours, which produces a slightly carbonated, tangy beverage. The fermentation process also creates a unique flavor profile that is both sweet and sour.

Asahi, the parent company of the drink, describes the process to make the drinks in a fun infographic: https://asahibev.com/history/.

Typically the company uses cow milk and some soymilk. However in certain flavors that are produced, coconut milk and other additives are also used to give the drink its distinctive flavor.

Is Calpico good for you?

Calpico is not only tasty but also offers several purported health benefits due to the lactic acid. It is a good source of calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth.

It also contains probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that help to promote a healthy gut. Specifically lactic acid bacteria is speculated to provide health benefits, which may help with your gut digestion and overall health.

The beverage is also low in calories, making it an excellent choice for those who are watching their weight. It is also a great alternative to sugary sodas and other unhealthy drinks.

What Does Calpico Taste Like?

Do you ever wonder what does Calpis taste like? Think of Calpico and Calpis as a cross between yogurt and carbonated water. It has a light, refreshing taste that is slightly sweet and slightly tart. The main flavor is that of lactobacillus-fermented milk, which really is just a slightly sour but creamy milk, but there are also hints of citrus and vanilla.

You may also ask what flavors does Calpico come in? Many Japanese drinks only come in a few flavors, but good news for you that Calpico has many flavors and constantly experiments with limited edition flavors.

See below for just a few common variants, across flavors and formats. We also provide reviews of them when available.

Is Calpico a Good Replacement for Milk?

Some people may ask “is Calpico milk?” The drink is indeed made from milk and is an excellent source of calcium, making it seem like a good replacement for milk in some instances. However, it is important to note that the beverage is not a true dairy product, and it does not contain the same level of nutrients found in milk.

The drink is lower in fat and calories compared to whole milk, making it an excellent choice for those who are watching their weight or are lactose intolerant. However, the drink contains artificial flavorings, and even the fruit flavored Calpico drinks contain only 1% fruit juice. Given the level of processing and sweetness in the drinks, it is unlikely that this drink could properly substitute for real milk.

Is Calpico Vegan? Is Calpico Lactose Free?

Calpico is vegetarian but not vegan because it contains cow’s milk. Because Calpico contains cow’s milk, it also not lactose free. Some variants of the drink contain coconut milk and soymilk, though those are secondary ingredients.

The beverage’s lactose content is rather high and can cause a stomach upset if you’re not careful. It’s recommended that you temper your consumption of the drink if you are lactose intolerant, and limit to drinking one or less bottles per day.

Other Alternatives to Calpico

While the beverage is a popular Japanese drink, there are several other alternatives to consider if it is not available or does not suit your taste. Some of the alternatives to Calpico include:

  1. Yakult: Yakult is a Japanese probiotic drink that is similar to Calpis. It is also a lactic acid fermentation drink, containing Lactobacillus Casei Shirota, a beneficial bacteria that helps to promote gut health.
  2. Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is similar to yogurt. It contains probiotics and is an excellent source of calcium and protein.
  3. Milkis: Milkis is similar in that it is also a popular milky drink. However, Milkis is carbonated and there are different flavors that Milkis produces that are not produced by Calpis.
  4. Coconut Water / milk: Coconut water and also coconut milks are a refreshing and hydrating beverage that is low in calories and high in electrolytes. It is an excellent alternative to sugary drinks.
  5. Aloe Vera Juice: Aloe vera juice is a healthy and refreshing beverage that contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Final Thoughts

Calpico is a delicious and refreshing drink that can be enjoyed any time of the day. It has become a popular choice among many people due to its unique flavor, low calorie content, and versatility.

If you’re curious to see what others think about the drink, check out some Calpico drink reviews at milkydrinks.com! You’ll find plenty of helpful insights that can help you decide if this delicious drink is right for you.

By Emily @ milkydrinks.com

Hi! I started milkydrinks.com in 2023 because I’m lactose intolerant but love milk-based products. I regularly buy alternative and regular milk-based products throughout my travels. Excited to share.

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