By Gordon Heady
Putting it in a simple way, sake is an alcoholic beverage made with rice, water, yeast and koji, a mold that converts starch into sugar. But since there's a lot more to understand about the world of sake, I joined a sake tasting tour in Tokyo with sake sommelier, Satoko Utsugi.
Sake can be divided into two main categories: the pure rice type—called Junmai in Japanese—and the alcohol added type, to which a certain amount of distilled alcohol is added in order to balance its flavor and body.
According to Satoko, the rice polishing degree is also an important aspect regarding its classification. For those familiar with high-quality sake, you might have heard of ginjo and daiginjo types. When we refer to ginjo sake, it means that the rice polishing ratio is lower than 60%. Daiginjo refers to an even lower polishing degree: 50% or less. Taking into account that the number refers to what remains of the grain after being polished, the lower the polishing degree, the more polished the grain was and the lighter and clearer the sake gets.
Water is an essential ingredient since it represents around 80% of the final product. Therefore, the water source can add a local touch to the sake's character.
If this is getting too technical, the easiest way to find out one's taste is by identifying his/her preferences regarding sweet or dry taste sake (amakuchi or karakuchi, in Japanese).
Satoko also shared with me an interesting fact: sake has anti-aging properties and can improve stomach conditions.
For those interested in discovering more about sake, Satoko offers sake tasting tours in Tokyo via Airbnb in both English and Japanese: https://www.airbnb.com.br/experiences/45605 and https://www.airbnb.com/experiences/1196.
Special thanks to the shops visited for the video:
- Japan Sake and Shochu Information Center (Toranomon Area)
Address: NS Tranomon Bldg. 1F, 1-6-15 Nishishinbasi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0003 Japan
- Orihara Shoten (Monzennakacho Area)
Address: Orihara Monnaka Bldg. 1F, 1-13-11 Tomioka, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0047, Japan
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