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5 Things You Should Know About Choya Umeshu

 

Umeshu is a Japanese liqueur made by soaking ume fruit in liquor and sugar. It's popularly made in many Japanese homes and restaurants and comes from a tradition that carries as far back at the 17th century, having started out as a soothing drink for sorethroat.

And no, ume fruits are not plums! While they come from the same family, ume has higher acidity from the higher amounts of organic acids, amino acids and antioxidants found in the Japanese fruit.

When you think Umeshu, you're almost always going to think Choya, and that's not surprising - it's pretty much the most dominant player in a market for a drink that's largely homemade. 

Here are 5 things you should know about Choya Umeshu.

 

Choya wasn't always in the Umeshu business.

The company was originally in the wine business in 1914, having been started by Sumitaro Kondo. Yet the company found it incredibly difficult to be in the wine business - there was pretty much no demand. An eye-opening trip to France proved even more daunting - French wines, some of the most popular then, was priced 80% lower than Choya's own wines.

While at the time the Japanese market was not opened to alcohol imports, Choya's founder, Sumitaro, had figured that it was only a matter of time, and when it did eventually happen, Choya would find it incredibly difficult to compete.

The company would pivot to Sakes first and then Shochu, before finally landing on Umeshu.

 

Choya's competition was every Japanese household.

Given that Umeshu has always been a Japanese household staple, and a drink you can find in pretty much any Japanese restaurant, having been touted as a soothing drink made with relatively simple and available ingredients, Choya had some tough competition on its hands - pretty much every Japanese household.

Choya therefore concluded it had to have a big focus on being of premium quality. The company prides itself on using actual ume fruit that's grown semi-organically and with no artificial additives, working closely with growers to ensure the quality of the ume fruit. They also infuse a higher proportion of ume to their liqueur, while minimising the amount of sugar used - which is not an easy feat as ume fruits contain high amounts of natural acid which can be harsh to the palate especially at elevated ume proportions used.

 

Choya is the largest single purchaser of Ume fruit in Japan.

Given its sheer size and global popularity, it's no surprise that Choya is the largest single buyer of Ume fruit in Japan. Choya focuses on using only a few varieties of Japanese ume, specifically the Nanko-ume from Wakayama, which has plump flesh and high acidity.

 

Choya has changed the base alcoholic spirit that it uses to make its Ume liqueur several times.

Since umeshu's recipe doesn't dictate what type of liquor is required for use, Choya has changed up their formula every so often, having first used koshu, a type of aged sake, and then later moving on to various types of shochu, and currently using a cane spirit as its base. There's even a higher end Choya that uses French brandy as its spirit.

 

Choya comes in an incredibly diverse range of variations.

With liqueurs being relatively free from conventions or restrictions, Choya has ventured quite creatively into a whole range of styles of umeshus that form a huge lineup for the brand. This includes Extra Aged, Shiso, Royal Honey, Barrel Aged, Organic, Kokuto (Black Sugar) and Uji Green Tea!

 

Kanpai!

 

@111hotpot