When you think of a refreshing Japanese soft drink, Calpico is one of the first names that come to mind. If you have been to Japan, you must have seen Calpico bottles in their signature blue-and-white summery polka-dotted bottles at vending machines, convenience stores, supermarkets, and even in popular Japanese media and television.
Calpico is a milk-based soft drink with extreme popularity in Japan. Calpico has a long history of more than 100 years and was created in 1919. In Japan, it is called 'Calpis,' and the name is modified to 'Calpico' overseas because the name can be misleading to English speakers.
Call it 'Calpis' or 'Calpico,' there is no doubt that this iconic Japanese drink deserves to be known as it is too good to be missed out on, and so here we are today with a guide to everything you need to know about this fascinating Japanese drink.
What is Calpico? Are Calpico and Calpis the same?
Calpis (pronounced Karupisu) or Calpico is a non-carbonated Japanese soft drink with a flavor described as a combination of yogurt, buttermilk, and milk. If you have ever tasted the Japanese probiotic drink Yakult, it is very similar to the taste of Yakult but more refined and mellow. It is sweet, slightly tangy, mild, and refreshing. It has a smooth, cloudy white appearance. Calpis made by the Japanese company Calpis Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of Asahi Breweries. The name Calpis is a combination of "Cal" for calcium as it uses milk as a base ingredient and "Pis" which comes from the Sanskrit word 'Salpis' which refers to the refinement of taste and fermentation of milk, as well as the 'five flavors' of Buddhism.
In Japan, Calpis is mainly sold in a concentrated form which needs to be diluted with milk or water at the time of consumption. Although the concentrated form is the original version, it is also available in a ready-to-drink form that is already diluted, labeled as 'Calpis Water.' The concentrated and ready-to-drink versions have various flavors such as strawberry, lemon, grapes, melon, etc. If you prefer your soft drinks fizzy, Calpis has that covered as well with their 'Calpis Soda,' which is a fizzy, carbonated version of Calpis. These are sold in plastic bottles, cans, and paper cartons of different sizes.
Now, to answer whether 'Calpis' and 'Calpico' are the same – yes, Calpis and Calpico are the same company's products and have the same primary flavor. However, one crucial thing to keep in mind about Calpis and Calpico. Calpis is more likely to be in the concentrated form, whereas 'Calpico' is initially in the ready-to-drink version. That being said, Calpis and Calpico are both available as a concentrate, ready-to-drink beverage, flavored, and carbonated – you have to be aware of which one you are getting at the time of purchase.
What does Calpico taste like?
Calpico has a sweet and mildly sour taste – imagine yogurt, milk, and buttermilk blended into a smooth mixture that is creamy yet refreshingly light. It is the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. The tangy taste of Calpico comes from lactic acid fermentation. Although this classic version of Calpico is the most popular, Calpico is also available in different fruity flavors.
Nutritional aspects of Calipco
Now that you have heard so many good things about Calpico, you might be ready for your first Calpico haul and say, "I want one in every flavor'. Before consuming every Calpico product, we recommend you to know about the nutritional factors of Calpico. So that you know about its benefits and possible concerns in terms of health and nutrition.
What is Calpico made of?
The basic ingredients of Calpico are water, sugar (sources vary according to flavor type and country), non-fat dairy milk treated with lactic acid culture. According to variations, Calpico might also contain natural and artificial flavors.
Does Calpico have caffeine?
Calpico is 100% caffeine-free and is safe to be consumed even before going to bed without affecting your sleep patterns. As it is free from caffeine, children can have it safely.
Is Calpico lactose-free?
Calpico is not lactose-free. Calpico contains dairy ingredients such as milk and lactic acid from the fermentation of milk. So if you are lactose-intolerant, Calpico might not be the best drink for you. That is not the end of the story, though - a perfectly safe lactose-free, non-dairy version of Calpico is now available! Released in 2020, "Calpis Green" is a plant-based Calpico free from animal-based ingredients and does not contain any lactose. The milky flavor and taste are created by soy milk and fermented soy milk, so anyone lactose-intolerant can enjoy this Calpico without any worries.
Does Calpico have alcohol in it?
Calpico is a soft drink, and it does not have any alcohol in it. However, if you want an alcoholic Calpico flavored beverage, you are in luck! Asahi Breweries makes a pre-made canned cocktail called "Calpico Sour," a vodka-based Calpico flavored sweet and sour cocktail perfect for Calpis-loving adults to kick-start their weekend.
Is Calpico probiotic?
Calpico is a cultured milk drink containing gut-friendly lactobacillus culture. Lactobacillus is a type of bacteria present in our digestive system that aids and promotes healthy digestion and is present in other foods such as yogurt, which is considered good for digestion and bowel movements in general. So Calpico can be said to be good for digestion. However, one thing to note is that it is not labeled as having active or live probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria or yeast that are good for your health, especially the digestive system. This means that although Calpico is a cultured milk drink that contains milk that has been treated with lactobacillus bacteria to create fermentation, it does not contain active and live probiotics.
How Healhty is Calpico?
Calpico is not technically a health drink, but it has been scientifically proven to have health benefits. It is a healthier option than many other sweetened soft drinks. It is alcohol-free, caffeine-free, gluten-free, and is made from non-fat dairy products. During the 1970s, Calpico joined hands with a leading Japanese scientific research institution called RIKEN to study the health benefits of Calpis. It was discovered that Calpico has properties of cancer cell suppression, improving immunity, and promoting longevity.
Moreover, human studies proved that cultured (fermented) milk in Calpico could reduce fatigue and stress and play an important role in maintaining healthy blood pressure. These results have allowed Calpico to be marketed as a Food for Specified Health Use (FOSHU). There are some other factors to look into regarding Calpico that can give us a good understanding of the nutritional value of Calpis.
- Sugar: Sugar content is one thing to keep in mind when consuming Calpis. Evident as it is, the concentrate version of Calpico has a higher sugar content than the ready-made version. That being said, when it comes to the concentrate, you can dilute it as much as you want using water, ice, milk, etc. That might give you better control over how much sugar you are consuming.
- Calcium: As it is made from dairy products, Calpico is a source of calcium, an essential nutritional component important for bone and teeth health.
Are there any health variations of Calpico?
From the information above, it is already clear that the Calpico brand associates itself with being healthy. One of its famous marketing taglines is "Karada ni Peace, Calpis," which means "Peace for your body, Calpis." Keeping in accordance with that, Calpico has come up with Calpico variations that have been specially made to be health-friendly.
"Karada" in Japanese means "Body." Released in April 2017, Karada Calpico has been specifically designed to be good for your body. This Calpico contains milk fermented using a particular strain of lactobacillus called CP1563, which releases a compound called 10-Hydroxyoctadecan (10-HOA), which has been scientifically proven to promote metabolic activity and tackle obesity and reduce excess body fat. This Calpico also contains zero calories!
Calpis Light Blue
Calpis Light Blue has substituted its sugar content using pure fruit extracts from lemon and white grapes. This modification has minimized the sweetness and amped up the freshness of this Calpis, making it a perfect drink to enjoy during a work break. It does not contain artificial sweeteners and is very low in calories (only 13kcal per 100ml). It is a healthier choice than other Calpis flavors.
Zero Calorie Calpis Sukkiri
This Calpis has zero calories, so it is an excellent option if you are trying to control your daily calorie intake. To add an extra punch to the taste and flavor of Calpico, it has been made with sea salt from Okinawa (Japan's tropical paradise). It can also act as a great electrolytic drink to keep you hydrated during sports and prevent dehydration on hot summer days.
Calpis Sugar 60% Off
Suppose you are worried about the calorie and sugar contents of Calpis. In that case, you can go for this version of Calpis, which has reduced its sugar content and calories by 60% compared to the original while preserving the taste and flavor of the original Calpis. It contains only 17kcal calories per 100ml serving.
What inspired Calpico?
Although we are only familiar with the modernized version of Calpis, the origin of Calpico goes back to a traditional drink made and enjoyed by nomadic people living in the mountainous region of Mongolia. Interesting, right? The founder of the Calpico brand, Kaiun Mishima, was in Mongolia for business in 1904. While visiting the mountains of Inner Mongolia, he encountered a traditional sour milk drink made by fermentation of horse milk. This drink is known as Airag (also Kumis in other parts of Asia). Mishima was surprised by the refreshing sweet-tangy taste of the drink, as well as by the drink's ability to aid digestion.
When he returned to Japan in 1915, he started to work on launching a business based on the ideas and inspiration he had gathered from the Mongolian drink. On July 7th, 1919, Calpico was marketed for the first time in Japan. Upon its release, Calpico became widely popular due to its unique taste and long shelf life. As Calpico was sold in the concentrated form, it stayed fresh for a long time without refrigeration, which was a strong advantage during pre-war Japan.
How to dilute the Calpico concentrate? The perfect ratio.
As you are already aware, Calpico and Calpico concentrate forms can be diluted to your preference level depending on how strong you want the Calpico taste to be. The recommended ratio for this dilution is 1:4 (1 part Calpico concentrate, 4 parts water) for when diluting with water, and 1:6 if you want to dilute it with milk. However, to find your Golden ratio, Calpico recommends you experiment as much as you want until you reach that perfect taste and flavor.
Also, the dilution necessary doesn't have to be with just water or milk. The mildly sweet and sour taste of Calpico is compatible with many different kinds of taste and flavor, opening doors to endless possibilities – lemon juice, plain soda, liqueurs, fruit juices, yogurt, and the list goes on!
Pro tip: The classic way to enjoy diluted Calpico is with a good number of ice cubes. The ice cubes not only amp up the freshness of Calpis, but the sight of ice cubes floating in the milky white glass of Calpico is a soothing sight that will cool down the summer heat even before your first sip!
More than just a drink? Versatile recipes using Calpico.
Calpico is perfectly delicious in its originally intended form as a simple yet satisfying drink. However, it goes way beyond just that. You will be surprised to know the countless different ways Calpico can be used, starting from creating customized drinks to baking, making dips, and even as an ingredient in fish dishes! The best thing to do would be to stock up on Calpico and start experimenting, getting as creative and imaginative as possible in incorporating this fantastic ingredient into your original recipes. To give you an idea of how Calpico can be used, we have gathered some tried and tested ways Calpico can be used. We have also included a link where you can find the official Calpico recipes related to each category so that you can use them as a guide if you are not yet confident enough to create your own recipe.
- As a dessert topping: One of the most common uses of Calpico concentrate in Japan, both at home and at cafes, is topping on summer desserts such as 'Kakigoori' – a popular Japanese dessert made of ice shavings. Calpico can also be used as the main ingredient to make desserts such as ice-creams, sorbets, and gelatos. Pre-made Calpico flavored popsicles and ice-creams are widely available in stores and supermarkets in Japan.
- To make original drinks: Calpico can be mixed with different ingredients to create a refreshing cold and hot beverage. Think smoothies, milkshakes, lassi, juices. The possibilities are endless! Japanese Calpico's official website has a recipe for a drink made with tomato juice and Calpico!
Find official Calpico soft drink recipes here:
- To create Calpico-based cocktails: Take your happy hour drinks to the next level by using Calpico in your original cocktails. Calpico can be combined with different spirits such as whiskeys, vodka, rum, shochu, etc., along with varying flavors of fruit to create gorgeous and refreshing cocktails.
Find the Calpico original cocktail recipes here:
- For baking: The refreshing tanginess of Calpico makes it a great ingredient for baking treats that are not overly sweet. Calpico'ss official website features a wide range of Calpico-using baking recipes such as cheesecake, muffins, donuts, mochi dessert, jellies, chiffon cake, etc.
Find Calpico-official Baking and dessert recipes using Calpico:
- For dips: Calpico's yogurt flavor makes it an ideal match for popular dipping ingredients such as cream cheese, yogurt, and mayonnaise.
- For savory dishes: Calpico's creaminess can help you to add richness to your savory dishes. Some of the interesting savory recipes featured inCalpico'ss official website are fried chicken batter, Japanese curry, potato salad, a mackerel fish in miso dish(!), etc.
Calpico based savory dishes and dips recipe recommended by Calpico can be found here:
Calpico as a Japanese summer icon- calpico, summer, and Tanabata
Calpico was first released on July 7th, 1919, and July 7th is the day of Tanabata, or 'Star Festival', one of the biggest festivals in Japan celebrated throughout July and August all across Japan. It is a very vibrant and colorful festival celebrating the legend of two star-crossed lovers who can meet only once a year on the special day of Tanabata. As a result, Calpico is strongly associated with this festival, and every year, Calpico holds engaging campaigns with this festival as a theme. The original packaging of Calpico had white dots on a dark blue background, inspired by the Milky Way galaxy. The colors of the polka dots were reversed in 1953 to the light blue dots on a white background that has become the signature look of Calpis. Calpico and its white-and-blue polka dots are among the iconic symbols of summer in Japan. Most people in Japan have nostalgic, sentimental, and personal attachments to enjoying Calpico with their friends and families.
Calpico is not only famous as a drink during the summer in Japan. It is a common flavor used in the syrupy topping on Japanese 'Kakigoori,' a dessert similar to granita, made from shaved ice. It also appears flavors in smoothies, shakes, ice-creams, sorbets, and various summer desserts. For example, McDonald's in Japan released a Calpico flavored McShake during summer 2018.
Do you have to refrigerate Calpico?
Calpico does not have to be refrigerated before it is opened, which is one of the main reasons it gained massive popularity within a short amount of time during pre-war Japan. However, once it is opened, it is best to keep it refrigerated to preserve its taste and flavor.
Does Calpico expire?
As Calpico originally comes in a concentrated form, it is less susceptible to spoilage and has a longer shelf life than many other soft drinks. That being said, it does have an expiration date, which is always clearly indicated on the packaging. Most Calpico concentrate variations are good to go for several months after being opened; for example, the original Calpico concentrate (Japanese version) has a shelf life of 9 months. It is also important to note that the shelf life can vary according to the variety of flavors and packaging. As you can imagine, carbonated Calpico soda variations would start to lose their fizziness once they have been opened. Below we have a table showing the official expiration periods for some of the most popular Calpico products.
Best Before (as labeled on the official website)
Calpico fruit flavors
(peach, melon, grapes, etc)
Thirsty for more Calpico knowledge? – How about visiting the Calpico Museum?
Gather round, the true Calpico enthusiasts; this one is for you! If you have tasted all different Calpico flavors and learned everything you could learn about Calpico from the internet, yet are still ready to know more about Calpico. This is the place you should visit as your next step to becoming the ultimate Calpico guru.
This museum located in Gunma prefecture of Japan called "Calpis Mirai Museum" (Calpis Future Museum) combines a museum and factory production buildings for different Calpico products, including the Calpico drinks, Calpico butter, etc. It offers a free factory tour where you can get a close walk-through of the production process of Calpico. After the factory tour, you can even do a tasting of the freshly made Calpico. You can learn about Calpico's history, production process, and other cool Calpico facts at the museum through animated videos and elaborate displays. It also has a cute gift shop where you can buyCalpico'ss products and Calpico-themed souvenirs such as bags, mug cups, key rings, etc., designed with the signature Calpico polka dots.
One important thing to note is that the museum and the factory tour are very popular for school field trips, so a booking has to be made beforehand through their website.
Address: 166 Oshindencho, Tatebayashi, Gunma 374-0072, Japan